John Merizalde’s new video for Declan McKenna’s track “Bethelemen” captures the strange love story of two young teenagers that live in a trailer park in a small town in the Appalachian mountains in the Southern US. These kids are trapped in an odd cult - a snake-handling church:
Shot entirely on 16mm the film focuses on the forbidden love that develops between the two protagonists amidst this backwards, poverty stricken town. We discover that the girl is secretly pregnant and we watch the story as they hatch a plan to escape.
The story is told in a fractured heavily vignetted style, not only following the characters' lives but painting a portrait of the town, almost in a post-apocalyptic, Gummo-like way.
The director John Merizalde said: "When I first listened to the track, I was reminded of a small rural town in Georgia called Bethlehem, about an hour away from where I grew up. That, coupled with the themes behind the track - basically a critique against religiously-motivated violence and hate - were the initial catalyst for the idea. From there the story flowed naturally, inspired by images, people, and places that I'd seen growing up, or wanted to see. Despite some of the darker themes, we aimed to do something a little fun and different with this. The use of 16mm film and slow zooms were incorporated to hopefully give it a more old-school feel. And no, I never attended a snake church growing up... Although I do know some people that did."