Mission Control Texas is now viewable online

Ralf Buecheler’s documentary about “The Atheist Experience” that has been winning awards on the German film festival circuit is now available to watch for free online! Check it out.

(Please do not reproduce. The filmmakers are still shopping it around for US film festivals.)


A scene from the award winning documentary


  1. says

    Watched it and loved it. They’re trying to enter some U.S. festivals now with the movie. I hope it is accepted and does super!

  2. malefue says

    It’s only going to be available for free on 3sat.de for five days. So get to it, TAE readers!

  3. LlyranKeen says

    I’ve never left a comment here and I likely won’t ever again. I just felt the need to say something.

    I enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes. I was generally amused and poking fun at my wife because she’s from a very religious family and was raised in Texas, but we both enjoyed the film. Then Matt mentioned having to do without his diabetes meds.

    I’ve had to go through something similar for somewhat similar reasons and it’s hard to deal with in ways a lot of people couldn’t understand. Even with insurance my insulin alone can cost $45 a month. Having to decide if I want to spend what little money I have to eat well or buy my metformin, for instance, is a harsh decision to make when I need both to be healthy.

    I just wanted to say it gave me a little deeper appreciation for the people who do things like this, not just on the show but all over the place, and that many of them are doing it for free. So I’m glad a moment like that made it into the film.

  4. Christoph says

    We watched ‘Mission Control Texas’ yesterday, and we were very disappointed.
    The behind the scenes views are nice and the almost universal presence of prayer is shocking (from a German perspective), but…

    The theists pray and start doing things they like (rodeo, ralley, frighten children) while the atheists have nothing else to do than debate how ridiculous theists are even when they are at El Arroyo. That comes across a little single-edged and restricted.

    The shown atheist responses seemed pretty aggressive, interrupting the theist callers, shouting at them, hanging up on them (repeatedly), …
    As a long time listener to the show we know perfectly well that this can happen at the end of a long and dreadful discussion or with prank callers who have a dissappointing history. But that was by no means communicated in the movie.
    And we know that there are plenty of productive and kind discussions with callers. Why focus exclusively on the stupid ones and strip away the good arguments?

    The debate in the end of the movie shows the complete opening statement of the theist which is funny and entertaining and happens to be completely void of arguments but attacs Matt and tries to make him look stupid and self-contradicting.
    Following that exposure, Matt speaks apparently in response and sounds a little bit stressed and annoyed again, and strangely enough his speach contains claims but no arguments.
    When we noticed that his bottle was suddenly empty and accompanied by a second one we realised that this is not the response but the closing statement which summarized the debate but without repeating all the cool and interesting arguments.

    I also would have enjoyed an interview or two, where the history of the ACA and/or the television show are illuminated or at least some notable highlights (Best show of …?).
    The movie certainly was a lot of work to make and is nice to see for someone who knows the show at least a little and doesn’t misinterpret the rough parts.

  5. chris from Germany says

    Important note: 3sat is a publicly funded TV channel (you could perhaps compare it to PBS to some extent), and there’s a stupid law/regulation here that prohibits publicly funded TV channels from providing their content online for more than 7 days, with very few exceptions. So next Monday the clip will most likely not be available anymore. If anybody wants to watch it but doesn’t have time during this week, you should save it by switching the video format in the player to something other than Flash, then you can download the video file in that format directly. (And remember that we were all asked not to post it elsewhere, so only do that for your personal use.)

    About the documentary: for myself, having watched the show for a couple of years now, it was very interesting, especially since it showed how the show worked behind the scenes. But I seriously doubt that people without any foreknowledge could enjoy this documentary very much, because there was just too little context provided. While I don’t think it’s necessary to narrate the entire documentary, a couple of introductory remarks here and there would have been really great.

    The greatest surprise to me was the prevalence of religion documented there. Not having been to Texas, I can’t speak from personal experience, but the things shown in the documentary seemed to be excessive even from what I’ve imagined. (It’s not just a purely European perspective, I have been to the east coast of the United States, and there I did have the impression that religion was more important than in Europe, but not by that degree.) I suspect that the examples presented weren’t necessarily the most representative ones, and that that colors the impression I had from the movie. But maybe people living in Texas could answer a couple of questions for me:

    Are the scenes shown in churches somewhat representative for churches in Texas? Or are those things rather a minority (even if a sizeable one)? (The least creepy church scene to me in the movie was the one in the megachurch, to which I must say “yikes”.)

    Also, there were a lot of instances were prayers before events (rodeo, NASCAR, …) were shown. While I knew that was happening in the US (reading enough blogs that cover this every once in a while), the degree to which that was shown to be very important to the attending people surprised me. It is rare here in Germany to have any religious prayer before non-religious events, but there is a practice of having priests bless construction projects (e.g. when a bridge is finished). However, it seems to be by far more of a ritual over here, less something people give a second thought (it’s just something you due because of tradition). Were the examples shown in the movie representativeViewer from Germany here. – both in how those things take place and in how prevalent they are? How is that with the arts? If I go to a musical or play in Texas, will there be a prayer in the beginning to keep the actors and audience safe? (When I saw “Chicago” in New York off Broadway, I don’t remember anything like that.)

    By the way, I haven’t watched the German-dubbed version (also available there), only the one with German subtitles, and I have to say that while I didn’t find any mistakes, the translations in the subtitles bulldozed over any nuance in what was said. (Much worse than with subtitles of other movies I’ve seen.) I wouldn’t be surprised if people who aren’t that proficient in English would come away with a completely wrong impression of the AXP crew after watching this.

  6. Russell Glasser says

    Hi Chris,

    They’re not necessarily typical, but they’re not unrepresentative either. Austin is very liberal, and we don’t have many religious crazies compared to the rest of Texas, but we still have a number of mega-churches, and I have in fact visited them with Matt and Tracie and others.

    Anywhere outside of Austin is much, much worse. One of the first things I noticed when I drove to Austin from California was just how many churches were in every town. The big cities have lots of megachurches, and I think most of the scenes in the documentary that weren’t showing us, were mostly filmed in nearby cities like San Antonio. Texas is notoriously right wing, and it is the largest reliably Republican voting bloc, a state that Republican presidential candidates generally take for granted as already won. Austin is the exception, partly because we have a prestigious university and a booming tech industry.

  7. Narf says

    @7 – Carol Sperling

    So, now “Seth” is the international poster boy for slavery apologetics. I hope he is happy about that

    It’s possible that he might be, for all I know.  I’ve long since given up guessing how some people want to be perceived.  When we have large groups of people who use the word ‘intellectual’ as a pejorative, we have to take a step back and seriously reexamine how their worldview works, before we can have any hope of trying to understand him.

    Hell, the call from Shane, in episode #795, comes to mind. I’m sure there are conservative preachers out there who would say that Shane won the argument, and that Matt lost by hanging up on Shane, because Matt knew that Shane had made a good point, and Matt couldn’t answer his challenge.

  8. Monocle Smile says


    And we know that there are plenty of productive and kind discussions with callers. Why focus exclusively on the stupid ones and strip away the good arguments?

    When we noticed that his bottle was suddenly empty and accompanied by a second one we realised that this is not the response but the closing statement which summarized the debate but without repeating all the cool and interesting arguments

    Excuse me? I have yet to run across a theistic argument that could ever be described as “good,” “cool,” or “interesting.”

  9. Narf says

    There are arguments that are at least structurally interesting, I guess, MS.  I dunno, maybe that’s the sort of thing that Christoph is referring to.

    There’s an oxymoron of sorts going on here, with Christian apologetics.  You could also state it as a Catch-22.  The arguments that we’re more likely to find interesting are the least honest ones.

    Christian apologetics is entirely post-hoc rationalization of a position arrived at by way of shitty reasoning or being brainwashed into the religion while young.  So, evangelists have to decide between being dishonest and getting called out for that or being honest and getting laughed out of the room for being so gullible and easily manipulated.  I’d almost feel bad for them, if they weren’t arguing for such a vapid and emotionally bankrupt ideology.

  10. Russell Glasser says

    When we noticed that his bottle was suddenly empty and accompanied by a second one we realised that this is not the response but the closing statement which summarized the debate but without repeating all the cool and interesting arguments.

    That debate was two hours long. Of course the documentary is going to show highlights and not the whole debate. The documentary isn’t about the debate; I’m surprised they chose to show as much as they did.

  11. says

    Mixed feelings about the doc.

    The decision to not narrate it is interesting. Like Jesus Camp, it lets the audience decide what to think, but the editing can sometimes be more damning than a voiceover telling you what to think.

    I don’t understand the juxtoposition of Matt et. al. arguing with callers, and then a jumpcut to a very emotional prayer rally. There doesn’t seem to be any connection between the two. None of those people call into the show or engage AXP personalities at any point. It just seems to be a slice of the religious/cultural climate in Texas for the sake of it, which is fine for establishment of setting at the beginning, but its not necessary to keep doing it throughout the doc when it says nothing about AXP and has nothing to do with it. Makes it feel like there are two narratives.

    The choice of editing is also peculiar. Lots of Matt hanging up on people (which are sometimes the show’s funnier moments but don’t really put the show or Matt in a good light). And why insert 8 minutes of Sye Ten Bruggencate’s 10 minute opening arguments in his debate with Matt and then follow with 2 minutes of Matt’s closing arguments that don’t address Sye’s attacks? Was it really necessary to have Sye’s out-of-context quotemining dominate 10% of the film uninterrupted?

    The behind-the-scenes stuff was the best. But as a whole, the doc felt aimless and afraid to assert a specific point of view.

  12. says

    I agree, unfortunately. Now I have no horse in this race at all, but I gave up after 20-30 minutes because I couldn’t see that there was a point they were trying to get to. It was a bunch of AXP stuff, granted from some interesting behind-the-scenes angles, there was a bunch of really annoying religious stuff, but other than a “here’s what happens in Austin” vibe, nothing was ever really tied together. It was just a bunch of scenes without any real connection. I get that people in Germany don’t get some of the religious craziness that goes on here, but what was the point of the religious crazy circle? What was the point of the rodeo? I just got bored and decided to move on when they didn’t have any particular point they were trying to make.

  13. Deesse23 says

    After watching the docu i have to agree that it was rather sub-par than worthy of prices. I also do agree with the detailled criticism of the posters above.
    @Cephus: Yet, from a german perspective it was quite fascinating to watch stuff like the “fanatics circle” at the beginning and other things. Fascinating like watching a train wreck site……its horrible, but you just cant turn your eyes away. To see how religion permeates a LOT of american culture (rodeo, etc), although this country has a separation of church and state (unlike Germany) written into its constitution, and to know that in Germany never ever at any sports or other public event a prayer would be held like that, now that is fascinating and horrifying to me everytime. I just cant sometimes decide which one of those.

  14. johnwolforth says

    I’d say this is great for someone who has never seen the show, or for AAE junkies like me. They did an excellent job of picking out the “best of” and representative or not, showing why the show is necessary with all the Texas fundamentalists. Showing adults nodding like zombies while Joel Osteen talks to them like children, telling them they are special was frightening. I wonder how aware people in Germany are of those scenes. It didn’t bother me that I didn’t see other sides of the personalities, because that just wasn’t what they trying to show here. HOWEVER, I would love to see such a documentary.

  15. malefue says

    Cephus #15:

    That’s a good observation and being half-german and spending half of my time there, I can say that this is a style distinct to publicly-funded documentary films here. In turn, when I watch an american doc I find myself often annoyed by how slanted and driven towards a particular point they are. It seems insencere and biased to me, just because I grew with up with a different style of documentary filmmaking. But I guess that comes from doc-makers in the US needing to have a strong point to make, otherwise they might struggle getting it sold or getting their new project funded.
    I tend towards the golden middle so to say, but I still enjoy this type of relatively distanced, kind of observational filmmaking.
    Just thought this might be illuminating in some way. ( :

  16. houndentenor says

    For anyone doubting how common the church and other religious scenes are in Texas and much of the US, the answer is yes. Yes, a lot of Texans are Catholic or Methodist or Episcopalian and their services are not unlike what you would find in a similar church elsewhere, but fundamantalism is widespread and even where they are more of a plurality than a majority, the fundies will act as if everyone practices their faith and steamroll over the rest, knowing such groups are not likely to band together to oppose them. Prayers before pretty much everything are typical, especially in smaller cities and towns, and even in the largest ones once you leave the very hip urban center. They aren’t exaggerating or taking anything out of context. People who live here (like me) see things like this all the time. I was a bit horrified for Germans to see this. I know (from living there for awhile about 10 years ago) that they already think we’re batshit crazy here and they are right.

  17. Shane Frazier says

    I couldn’t help but notice that Episode 922 doesn’t seem to be up on your Archives. Will you be posting it soon?

  18. Feno says

    @24 / SRK please read entry #8.

    3Sat is a German/Austrian/Swiss public broadcasting station and the “mediathek”, the online available broadcasts have by law to be deleted after a short while (7 days was mentioned in Post No 8).
    As it is there is right now no way to “reupload” it at the original place as the TV station is not allowed to provide content for so long a time. Sadly right now i can’t even find a video / DVD on Amazon or similar channels, so it’s pretty much nonavailable anywhere.

  19. Feno says

    Hmmm I must correct myself i’ve now found a webshop offering a DVD.


    pricing is 16,90 plus shipping costs of 4,50. According to google this price of 21,40 should equal 23.25 $ and they suggest using paypal so there should be no transaction fees for international transfers IIRC?
    Of course there is a warning that custom fees and tarrifs may apply which you’d have to pay in addition to the shop’s invoice as you’re the importer.

    Disclaimer: I’m not connected to or profitting from the sales of this DVD in any way, the link is simply meant to help anybody who could not acquire the movie in another way.