Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sundance documentaries with a Vision and a Voice

I wanted to go see a movie - but discovered two amazing films on the Sundance Channel that night instead. These films are not new, but they are unknown to many - and I would love to help shine light on them, because they both affected me deeply.

For the Bible Tells Me So
Directed by: Daniel Karslake
Bishop Gene Robinson
Imogene & Victor Robinson
Brenda, David and Tonia Poteat
Jake and Britta Reitan
Chrissy, Jane and Dick Gephardt
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Reverend Peter Gomes
Rabbi Steven Greenberg
Reverend Jimmy Creech

This film opens by introducing us to 5 Christian families. They document each families experience with their son or daughter coming out as Homosexual in a Christian home.

We hear the family history, of church practices, of hard core Christian values being instilled, and on the "Horror" the parents went through when their son/daughter came out of the closet for the first time. Feelings are raw and real, and at times very hurtful and disturbing. The parents are candid and so honest with their initial feelings. At times it was hard for me to think of any parent treating their own child so horribly.

As you watch - each family of course handles it differently. Beautifully woven in the mix are clips and interviews with Protestant and Jewish theologians - and film clips of fundamentalist preachers and pundits and news clips of people in the street. There is tons of discussion of the literal translation of the bible and how easily it is misunderstood (which is true in SO many situations).

At one point of the movie, there is a hilarious cartoon (very similar to the sarcastic political type cartoons in Michael Moore's movies). Here is the cartoon:

The two families that touched me the most in this film - was a single mother, Mary Lou Wallner, one of the staunchest advocates of gay rights in the movie, became a political activist after her daughter, Anna, committed suicide — the result, Ms. Wallner believes, of the letter she wrote to Anna rejecting her after she came out. Mary Lou was raised and lived her life according to the books and teachings of James Dobson (Focus on the Family - Gay conversions).

The other is the Gephardt family. The openly gay daughter of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, talks about how her parents dealt with her news with unconditional love and support and how her father invited her to join him on the campaign trail when he ran for president in 2004.

This movie does a beautiful job of stressing the inclusion of all, and the message that God loves everyone. The hateful condemnation and abuse of the right wing fundamentals on this subject is both embarrassing and horrifying and makes you want to go out and do something about it. This movie was eye opening and a must see for anyone who considers themselves a champion of Justice for All.

Rating: **** amazing

The Grace Lee Project
Director: Grace Lee
Starring: Various Grace Lee's

I have to say the first 30 minutes of this movie are the best part. The movie is about Korean/American director Grace Lee - who grew up in Missouri in a small town. She was the only "Grace Lee" she knew of. Upon leaving her town and becoming an adult, she found that almost everyone she met knew "another Grace Lee". She began to inquire what all of these different people, with her same name, were like.

Most people had the exact same responses "demure, quiet, sweet, intelligent, reserved, played some instrument well etc". Grace was disturbed at first that she seemed so different than these other Grace Lee's.

The films director begins a search - desperate to find OTHER Grace Lee's like herself, that don't fit the "Asian Grace Mold" that seems to be the majority of the Grace's she had heard about.

She puts a call out to all Grace Lee's in the US - and filters through them to find a great cross section of women - who are leading amazing and different lives. Grace Lee, the 80 year old social activists for African Americans, to a young girl in California who is an artist who enjoys drawing "dark art".

The director self narrates and should be a comedian, her wit and dry humor on the subject of her name and her heritage is a frank and honest taste of America's Asian generalization problem and how even in her own culture, she is lost in the mix.

I found it enlightening, creative and humorous. The only thing I would have liked is to get to know THE Grace Lee a bit more, the director. She spent so much time on other Grace Lee's - when in reality, in hearing her humor and antidotes - she seemed almost more interesting at times.

Rating: **** wonderful movie

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