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The documentary I Pastafari: A Flying Spaghetti Monster Story follows several of the 30 million devotees of a new religion that celebrates an alien monster made of spaghetti. What a crazy idea for a religion, right? Before you jump to thought like that, what is the basis for your religion? Pastafarians would argue their religion is no nuttier than those that have existed and controlled the world for thousands of years.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose followers call themselves Pastafarians, is centered on the belief that an invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster (or FSM, as he is referred to by those who love him) created the universe a few thousand years ago. That being the case, church founder and prophet Bobby Henderson demanded equal time be given to FSM in Kansas science classrooms, as is given to intelligent design and evolution. In 2005, the Kansas State Board of Education allowed the teaching of intelligent design along with evolution, and Pastafarian Henderson did not want his own deity to be left out of the teaching syllabus.

Essentially, Pastafarians are working to enforce the separation of church and state, or alternatively allow all beliefs, no matter how absurd, to be recognized by governments around the world. They are also putting into question what religion-based education, devoid of any science or facts, should be allowed to creep into schools. They also don’t appreciate the hypocrisy and violence so often part of religion. The FSM’s Eight “I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts, their version of the Ten Commandments, include things like “I’d really rather you didn’t build multimillion dollar churches/temples/mosques/shrines to my noodle goodness when money could be better spent ending poverty curing disease, living in peace, loving with passion, and lowering the cost of cable.”

I Pastafari director Michael Arthur fights the good fight, in the Spaghetti Monster’s stead, of considering fact vs belief in the era of fake news, and the cultural and political war of the religious right vs the ‘liberal elite’. He does so by profiling Pastafarians around the world.

One of the focuses is on Pastafarians going through court battles in order to be allowed the right to express their faith on their state-issued IDs, something already afforded to members of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other faiths. These folks want to wear pirate garb or colanders on their heads as a statement of faith. There could be a running ticker on the bottom of the screen counting the number of eye rolls and deep sighs offered by lawmakers and judges being asked to rule on this request, and this is regardless of the country in which these battles take place. The argument is whether the Church of the FSM is satire or a true religion. Who should be allowed to say?

More than anything, the film proves the power of one man’s influence. Bobby Henderson’s 2005 challenge that all theories are created equal has grown into a worldwide movement of people willing to be seen as a little insane in the name of bringing sanity, or critical thinking, back into favor. It would have been nice for a film about FSM to focus more on Henderson. He’s MIA. Also, Pastafari is a bit scattered, and doesn’t follow the sort of narrative line that keeps viewers engaged. It might also create more questions than answers to those genuinely curious about how FSM proliferated so dramatically in such a short time.

Still, with a running time of under an hour, it’s an interesting look at a social movement that has captured the world, filled with followers who rail against chosen ignorance, hypocrisy, and the religious privileges laws around the world provide to what are seen as “real” religions, regardless of their teachings.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

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Leslie Combemale

Leslie Combemale writes as Cinema Siren on her own website, CinemaSiren.com, and is a frequent contributor to MPA's TheCredits.org, where she interviews filmmakers above and below the line, with a focus on women and diverse voices. She is the Senior Contributor at AWFJ.org. Leslie is in her 9th year as producer and moderator of the influential "Women Rocking Hollywood" panel at San Diego Comic-Con. She is a world-renowned expert on cinema art and her film art gallery, ArtInsights, located near DC, has celebrated cinema art and artists for 30 years.