Who: Filmmaker Mike Arthur will attend the 2019 BendFilm Festival, screening “I, Pastafari,” his documentary about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. (One of the religion’s beliefs: Rising global temperatures are an effect of the declining numbers of pirates since the 1800s.) The film looks at European Pastafarians in battling for rights on a few legal fronts. In The Netherlands, they’re vying the right to wear their chosen headwear — colanders — in I.D. photos. Before moving to The Netherlands five years ago, Arthur lived in Portland and once attended BendFilm. “It was the first time I really was exposed to that scene, that whole film scene, seeing people who were working on things that they cared about.” One of the subjects in the film, former Austrian Parliament member Niko Alm, will also attend BendFilm, where “I, Pastafari” shows Friday and Saturday. For more info, visit bendfilm.org or ipastafaridoc.com.
Q: Did attending BendFilm inspire you to give filmmaking a try?
A: Yeah. After the BendFilm Festival, I made a 10-minute short film about online poker. It kind of took off online. I did a Kickstarter campaign, and then it became a full-length film (“Drawing Dead”), and I somehow sold it to a subsidiary of DirecTV. That kind of got me hooked. … Once you see your baby, like an idea that you had, become something, it’s tough to go back to corporate retail.
Q: Just for readers who don’t know about Pastafarianism, can you talk about the basic tenets of the religion?
A: Yeah. There’s the religion, and then there’s point of the religion, which is satire. Really, what it’s about is the separation of church and science, and separation of church and state. It started, of course, as kind of a protest to this idea that evolution and creationism are both theories, therefore they should both be taught equally in science classes. Well, if that’s the case, if all theories are equal, then you should also teach this theory. … Then it evolved into a separation of church and state argument. The second the state decides what religion is real and what religion is not real, then you don’t have separation of church and state. … That’s where it gets tricky because, you know, does it have to have a lot of followers? Well, the Pastafarians have millions of followers all over the world. Does it have to have a holy scripture? Well, they have “The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” … It always comes back to, “Well, it’s not old enough.” I don’t think that’s a very convincing argument. … Scientology is less than 50 years old. The Mormon Church is 200 years old.
Q: I was familiar with the religion, somewhat, but I didn’t realize it had taken off to the extent that it had, nor did I know that it was founded by somebody from Oregon, Bobby Henderson.
A: Yeah. I think he had just graduated from Oregon State University when he wrote the Open Letter to the Kansas School Board.
Q: Is he in the film?
A: No, I tried for years — basically, from the conception of the idea — to get him involved in the project. He’s always been kind of shy about being public about all this. … One of the tenets of Pastafarianism is there’s no real hierarchy. So if he comes out and makes official statements, people are going to think that’s doctrine, which it’s not. There is no doctrine. It’s all friendly suggestions on how basically not to be a (jerk). … We’ve been in contact throughout this whole process. He’s been very supportive of the film.
Q: Are you surprised it took off like it did, and so quickly?
A: I guess so, but throughout the process of making this film, the more I learned about it, the more I appreciated what they’re trying to do. … You can’t really have a debate about religion’s impact on society. It almost always ends up with people getting frustrated or angry at each other, or offending somebody, or somebody saying, “Well, you’ve just got to have faith.” … I think what the Pastafarians are saying is like, “Well, if we’re not going to talk about this like rational adults, then let’s try another method.” … It’s becoming more obvious than ever how important science is to our well-being. So when science comes under attack … there are only so many other avenues. And Pastafarianism … I think they’re trying to kind of trick people to critically think for themselves.
— David Jasper