Raised by his grandmother to be a Pentecostal minister, Ron Athey was speaking
in tongues by the age of ten, a heroin addict by seventeen, and a performance
artist by twenty-three. Hallelujah! presents Athey's life and work, spending
time with him on and off the stage. An HIV-positive gay man, Athey practices
sadomasochistic ritual as a personal religion, using it as a means of transcendence.
Although he has become sober and rejected the church, his current work is
still full of religious iconography, and he performs self-flagellation and
blood-letting on stage as theatrical autobiography. As Athey says, "There
are many ways to say hallelujah!"
The film also features other performers in his group - while on tour in Mexico City and Zagreb, Croatia as well as at home in Los Angeles examining in depth the issues brought out in their collaboration. They are all by their own admission "freaks", disenfranchised by virtue of sexual preference, gender, size, race, histories of drug use, and identification with various subcultures of music, piercing, prostitution, SM, tattooing, branding. How did they all come together and how is the group they form a means of survival for them?
Using an intimate hand-held, Hi-8 camera style, Hallelujah! combines at home verité footage and interviews with scenes from Athey's trilogy: Martyrs and Saints, Four Scenes in a Harsh Life, and Deliverance.