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Film Review: Holy Frit
by Karen Pecota

Filmmaker (director/producer), Justin Monroe makes his first feature documentary about the production of the world's largest stained-glass window of its kind in HOLY FRIT. The story takes place within the niche world of an ancient art-form of stained glass. The subject matter might sound a bit boring but HOLY FRIT will prove to be anything but mundane.

Tim Carey, a traditional drawing and painting artist from Los Angles, California (known as a figurative oil painter and muralist), read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the legacy of the Judson family's stained glass window company and their impact on the art world over decades. David Judson, is the 5th generation owner and operator of Los-Angeles-based The Judson Studios, a small, but distinguished stained-glass company founded in 1897 by his great-great grandfather. David has successfully transitioned the business into the 21st century by introducing new technology into the company. More than likely a move that generations before him would have resisted.

Ambitious Carey, looking to make a name for himself thought he could be a good candidate to carry on their legacy of exceptional work in the stained-glass art world after taking a happen chance tour of the studio. In reality, he knew nothing about the trade. Tim goes to the company, applies for a job and is hired. One day, while working in the office, Tim answers a call from a potential customer who explains he is looking for a company to build him a stained-glass window that would reside in his new church auditorium. The size he needed had to be 40 feet high and 100 feet long. Tim assures the customer that would not be a problem. Tim, excited about the prospect of handling a new project, pitches the idea to his boss. Tim accidentally gets his figures mixed up. The Judson owners had to sit Carey down and explain to him the magnitude of such a window.

The Judson Studio owners ponder such a task. Initially they are simply overwhelmed by the importance of the project not to mention the labor intensity to fill such an order. Surprisingly, the enthusiastic, risk-taker Mr. Carey wins them over. Carey asks the bosses to at least consider the idea. In the meantime, Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas contacts several other renown stained-glass art companies in the world and asked those interested to put forth a bid for the project.

Carey and The Judson Studio owners present to the church board their proposal and win the bid! A mixture of shock, excitement, and fear well-up inside each member of the Studio including, Tim Carey. Given the narrow timeline for the completion of the project (to be known as the Resurrection Window) added to the pressure, but the bottom line was that Carey had no idea if his design and theory of how to accomplish the glass wall would work. As you can imagine, securing the right people for the job would be crucial to the Judson Studios success. Carey had the phenomenal creativity for design but his inexperience was of concern. If their project went awry, then the Judson Family's Studios legacy would follow. The expertise the family turned to for help were a famous Italian glass maestro artist, Narcissus Quagliata, and the Bullseye Glass Company in Portland, Oregon.

The Bullseye Glass Company in Portland, Oregon was founded in the late '70s when a group of glass artists discovered a colored glass fusion process. It took a long time for the traditional stained-glass community to see and understand the potential of this fusible glass that had the potential to show off a multitude of colorful shades. It is with their expertise that Carey and his team gleaned from Bullseye's advice and their artistic process to create one of the most colorful masterpieces using glass the world would ever gaze upon. Italian glass maestro, Narcissus Quagliate, born in Rome in 1942, is compared to what Steven Spielberg is to filmmaking. He incorporates a special style of glass art called Frit (ground up glass) to make all of his masterpieces. It is unique and a very delicate combination using light and color.

Filmmaker Monroe happened to move next door to the Los Angles-based artist, Tim Carey about the time a promo video was needed to pitch the project. Monroe was hired on the spot when the team found out he was a filmmaker. The project was already three-years underway but Monroe knew this story needed to be intricately documented according to the enormous feat. Monroe asked if he could film the rest-of-the-story and thus became embedded in the project.

Monroe began shooting in 2014. He never imagined that his part would be a six-year process. He recalls, "The crazy, synchronistic back-story, the dynamic cast of characters, the dramatic flair, high stakes and humor were much more than I could have predicted when I first began filming in November of 2014." Precision and patience were his virtue. Monroe knew he had to get the telling of this story right because of the impact it would have on a world-wide platform. Monroe adds, "As a writer/director of mostly narrative projects I'm not sure I could have written a fictitious story about the creation of a monumental piece of art nearly as visceral, interesting or inspiring as this real-life story turned out to be."

Several of the artists from Bullseye were present to observe the installation. While sitting in a faraway balcony seat one artist says, "I'm not a religion person but when you look at the window you can't help but see and feel a deep genuine expression of love." Another says, "It's impossible to not be overwhelmed by it (the Resurrection Window), and the power of the story and its telling."

Holy Frit is a documentary like no other thanks to filmmaker Justin Monroe. It's an intense emotional roller-coaster ride from beginning to end. After screening Monroe's documentary, no doubt a trip to Leawood, Kansas, will definitely be in your future travel plans but plan ahead because the tours fill up fast and prepare yourself for a deeply memorable experience.