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Regardless of political party or religion, most Americans agree that our country is not in the best of health. Across the nation, glaring evidence of financial and moral decay is piling up to form a monument of grisly aspect. Yet, no one seems to be able to agree on the cause of the disintegration or how to end it. Blame is passed from one person to the next, from one group to another, with few taking credit for the problems and even fewer proposing a real solution. Is there help? And where can Americans turn to find it?
Kirk Cameron discovers a compelling answer in his new documentary, Monumental: In Search of America's National Treasure. Claiming no expertise or radical insight of his own, Cameron uses this film to show his own journey from frustrated, helpless American, grieving the downturn of his country, to empowered and enlightened individual who is armed to battle for the liberty and greatness America once enjoyed.
What enabled this transformation? A trip through history as it isn’t told in modern schools. Cameron realizes that the people who laid the foundations for America must have done something right in beginning such a prosperous and enduring nation. Perhaps what they did can explain where recent generations went wrong and what can be done to fix the damage.
Determined to find out, Cameron starts at the very beginning—with the pilgrims who left their home to settle in the foreign land of North America. Everyone knows why the pilgrims came to America, right? Not exactly. The historical facts about these forefathers tell a different story from the politically correct version fed to school children in recent decades. Instead, Cameron finds the reality of persecuted Christians under a tyrannical government, and, in these brave and courageous men and women, encounters an unusual mentality—a joyful willingness to sacrifice their very lives for the betterment of future generations.
As Cameron travels to England to uncover the earliest roots of the U.S., he meets with historians who reveal the compelling and untold truths of the forefathers’ story. His interest peaked by the tale, Cameron follows the pilgrim’s path to American soil, where he consults with experts on the pilgrims’ lives and the Founding Fathers’ role in the building of the country, learning what is fact and fiction in the oft-revised accounts of these figures’ beliefs and actions.
Perhaps Cameron’s greatest discovery, however, is a little-known gift that the forefathers left for succeeding generations. Now situated in a quiet residential neighborhood, ignored and unheard of by most Americans, stands a monument that tells the story of our beginnings and points to the solution this country so desperately needs now.
By turning the spotlight on the Forefathers Monument, which was intended to pass on the truths that the nation’s founders knew to be essential to its survival, Cameron challenges others to join with him in his knew-found direction of bringing America back to its moral, political, and biblical roots, thereby restoring the U.S. to what it once was and all that it can be.
Several recent documentaries have tackled similar issues to Monumental, telling the facts of America’s history as most people alive today have sadly not heard. But with Monumental, Cameron manages to make this history lesson entertaining. Employing high production values and an artistic, smart approach, Monumental often has the feel of an adventure story or a mystery, as Cameron travels to uncover hidden secrets and lost monuments. His interviews with historians and other prominent figures are charged and even exciting, at times, due to savvy use of editing, cinematography, and soundtrack.
Dramatized snippets are also interspersed to emphasize and bring to life particularly powerful moments of the historical accounts. The cinematography is particularly of note, employing the mix of hand-held, choppy documentary and more stylized, polished technique that is used in many modern action films. This approach adds to the professional quality, while heightening visual interest and strengthening the grip of vital reality that is the benefit of this popular, but difficult to do well, technique.
Cameron is at his best in this film that requires him only to speak as himself and engage in interviews on a topic he is passionate about. Cameron is experienced and comfortable in such a role, and his ease in the interview spotlight carries the film. This well-known actor’s passion for his Christianity, family, and country is the fuel for this documentary, and it provides more than enough power for a successful film and call to arms for American Christians.
Monumental is not an in-depth exploration of early U.S. history, nor does it manage to cover the full extent of the truths Americans have lost in the wake of revisionist historians. But the documentary does have some elements, including facts about the pilgrims and the forgotten Forefathers Monument, that other recent documentaries do not cover. Most importantly, Monumental is for those who think history is boring or have decided that they have more important things to worry about.
Monumental flips such ideas on their heads with a take on the present and the past that is highly accessible and gripping. For the Christians who say we shouldn’t do anything and for all who want to save America, “the Beautiful,” Monumental is the spark—the starting point for the torch that can burn bright enough to restore the country if “we, the people” are willing to follow those before us by building with a new monument of restoration that will never be forgotten.