God's Architects is a documentary that tells the stories of five divinely inspired artist-architects and their enigmatic creations.The film details how and why these oft-marginalized creators, with neither funding nor blueprints, construct their self-made environments.
In the spring of 2005, Emilie Taylor, then a graduate student at the Tulane School of Architecture, received a travel grant to research and document self-taught and visionary builders around the south. After visiting and documenting a number of builders, most of whom professed some degree of divine inspiration, Emilie shared her findings with filmmaker Zachary Godshall. Immediately attracted by Taylor's stories, drawings, and photographs, Godshall decided to visit the builders himself.
And so in November 2005, Godshall set out from south Louisiana with a camera, tripod, and microphone to interview and document the work of Floyd Banks Jr., a divinely inspired castle builder living in the east Tennessee hill country.
Three years later, Godshall completed a feature-length film that both examines and celebrates the work of Banks along with four other solitary builders who have constructed similar monuments. Beyond the builders and their work, the film functions as a personal essay that explores the nature of inspiration and one's dedication to a creative project, no matter how absurd or mysterious the circumstances may seem.
Floyd Banks Jr. | Greenback, Tennessee
Floyd Banks Jr, (aka Junior) builds his castle in the hill country of east Tennessee. Junior has been building the castle out of found, donated, and homemade brick since 1992 when his brother passed away. For ten years Junior worked on the perimeter wall of a castle without knowing why. Then in 2002, it was revealed to him that his work was of a divine importance.
Reverend H.D. Dennis | Vicksburg, Mississippi
Reverend H.D. Dennis built additions to Margaret's Grocery along historic Highway 61 in rural Mississippi. Reverend Dennis, a 92-year old veteran of WWII who was raised by his grandmother, herself a former slave, promised his wife Margaret that he would make a castle out of her grocery store if she married him. She agreed, and so Dennis spent the consequent 23 years creating towers, archways, and signs to distract people off the highway so he could preach the gospel to whomever stopped. The highlight of his creations is a small school bus that the's converted to a chapel.
Kenny Hill | Chauvin, Louisiana
Kenny Hill built a sculpture garden and lighthouse overlooking a bayou in south Louisiana. Hill spent nearly a decade building what some know as "the story of salvation", an environment of more than a hundred concrete angels, statues, and structures, including a forty-five foot lighthouse. In the late nineties, Hill left the property and disappeared, not to be heard from again. While the property is owned and maintained by Nicholls State University, Hill's former neighbor and confident Julius Neil serves as the local expert regarding the sculptures and their enigmatic symbols.
Leonard Knight | Niland, California
Leonard Knight works on Salvation Mountain in the desert of southern California. In 1984, Leonard Knight's homemade hot air balloon crashed in the desert. When he couldn't repair it, he resolved to fulfill his promise to God to spread the message 'God is Love' by painting the side of a nearby mountain. Since then, Leonard has painted and constructed a mountainside 'environment' depicting his vision of God's love, which includes a three-story igloo-like structure made of adobe covered hay bales and peaceful visions of birds, waterfalls, and wheels within wheels.
Shelby Ravellette | Omaha, Arkansas
In the Ozark Mountains, Shelby Ravellette builds the Lacey Michele Castle to honor the memory of his deceased daughter. Six months after the death of his daughter, Lacey Michele, the girl visited him in a dream to remind him of his promise to build a castle for her. Shelby, who is a master stonemason, a Freemason, and Templar Knight, has been at it for nearly twenty years, and he says he's got twenty more years of work before he's finished.