God's Cadets: Joining the Salvation Army, BBC4 - TV review
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Wednesday 08 January 2014
You might assume that the participants in the BBC4 documentary God's Cadets: Joining the Salvation Army would all be classic "lark" types, but there was a greater variety of personality than expected in this 90-minute film. It followed the pious, but not pompous "cadets" who had given up their lives to enter into two years of intensive officer training at the William Booth College in south London.
This documentary was full of interesting insights into the sort of people who become spiritual soldiers. Far from the stereotype of the sheltered innocent, struggling to connect with wayward sinners, many had dark pasts of their own, which gave both empathy and courage. Soft-spoken Annmarie might have looked a wally, sat at a King's Cross bar, offering a listening ear to lap-dancers, but that didn't stop her making herself of service. She knows what it feels like to need a friend.
If you're sick of those supposedly "behind-the-scenes" workplace documentaries where there's never a cross word between colleagues and every boss is an inspiration (yeah, right, come off it, Iceland Foods: Life in the Freezer Cabinet, Liberty of London and Educating Yorkshire), then this was an unexpected dose of candour.
Darren revealed he was troubled by passive-aggressive Post-it notes left by church zealots, Katie admitted to occasionally missing the sweet, sweet taste of cider and Janet said she had her wobbles: "I'm still an atheist every Monday morning before I've had my first cup of coffee." That's the kind of doubt which gives you faith.
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