Jennifer Lynch is going to make a horror movie in Bollywood, and has to go through the very different process of filmmaking what she is used to. While her movie is forced through changes, and it doesn't end up the product she envisioned, on the way she also meets a lot of lovely people who give their all to her creation.
Let's get it out of the way: this documentary is about Jennifer Lynch. She is David Lynch's daughter. I'm not a fan of David Lynch. This has 0 effect on my opinion on "Despite the Gods". I want to make that clear because Film Bizarro is known for being against a lot of David Lynch's work, and we enjoy messing with his fans (who can't stop calling random things "Lynchian"). But I'm professional enough to watch an actual spawn of Lynch for 86 minutes and seperate the two. There we go, let's write a fucking review!
Not entirely unlike the recently reviewed "Unmade in China", this is about a Hollywood filmmaker going to a different country to create a horror movie THEIR way. The production changes heavily because of working situations, laws, etc. In "Despite the Gods", Jennifer Lynch ("Surveillance" and "Boxing Helena") goes to India to make a film the Bollywood way. The movie, now titled "Hisss", is based on a myth of a snake woman. The big difference between this and "Unmade in China" is that this isn't focusing as much on comedy and the absurdity of the filmmaking business in the country. Here we focus on Jennifer's journey as a person and filmmaker, having to deal with the film industry in India, their religion and customs, while also having her daughter with her on the trip. She starts out as a rather depressed person, although with love for the project and lots of creative ideas for it. Towards the end, she slowly becomes a more and more happy person (especially from getting a boyfriend on a trip back home) but the creativity and strength to fight for "Hisss" becomes less and less. The focus becomes to actually complete the movie, no matter what.
I can't get enough filmmaking documentaries. As long as they have something to show, or it's about the making of a movie I love, then I can watch endless amounts of them. I think both "Despite the Gods" and "Unmade in China" are extremely interesting and anyone interested in filmmaking should give them a shot. I prefer the latter because it highlighted some important things, and perhaps showed the working situation a bit better than "Despite the Gods" did. However, "Despite the Gods" is a lot more focused on the individual filmmaker, and that's where the strength is. It shows the ups and downs of creating, and that's all I really wanted out of it.
There's not much more to say - you either care about a Hollywood filmmaker making a Bollywood horror movie, or you don't. If you do, then this is a great watch. It's weird that both this and "Unmade in China" came out this year, but they are different enough to make both worth watching. "Despite the Gods" might not be as rebellious as the title might come off as, but I think it's a nice window to a different kind of filmmaking, how a Hollywood filmmaker adapts to it and most importantly: how much a movie changes due to where it was made.