Sunday, June 20, 2010

8: The Mormon Proposition

Thoughts before seeing the movie

First off, I did have someone contact me with whom I will be attending the movie.  We are going to the 11:15am showing on Saturday and lunch after in the nearby Dallas gayborhood.

I don't actually have high expectations for the movie.  I very much doubt I'll learn anything I didn't already know.  And, I don't expect it to be very balanced.  Although I disagree with the involvement of the LDS church in the prop 8 battle in California - I don't hate my church leaders for it.  I just think they are misguided.  I know a few in the Mormon queerosphere were interviewed (although, all didn't make it into the final cut).  Hearing what they have to say is my primary reason for wanting to see the movie.

I was surprised to see the movie reviewed in our local newspaper.  Although, the film critic didn't particularly like it, giving it 3 stars (out of 5).  He felt it was overly dramatic showing crying gay Mormon's and church leaders in unflattering photo's and film clips.  But, he did like the last 30 minutes of the movie - saying that is the documentary that should have been made.

Thoughts after seeing the movie

I had difficulty finding the theater in Dallas.  Although I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, I don't live in Dallas proper.  I guess I'm just not cut out for urban life - the traffic, the one-way streets, the "no U turn" signs at intersections.  Anyway, I did finally meet up with my friend and we bought our tickets and made it into the theater with literally just a few minutes to spare.  There was, perhaps, 18 people in the theater, although about 4 more people came in after the movie started.  We were sitting there talking when the lights started to dim and a familiar voice came from the speakers.  We both stared at the screen both thinking "wait, is it starting already?  No previews or anything?".  On the screen was a grainy picture of a recognizable figure (I don't actually remember who it was)

In some ways the movie followed a predictable course.  It wasn't exactly what one would call "balanced" - but it wasn't as harsh as I expected.  In many ways it just presented the facts and let the viewer draw their own conclusions.  Of course, those conclusions could be manipulated by the selection of facts they chose to present.  But, I will have to say that some of the actions of LDS church leaders are very disturbing.

What I didn't expect was the emotional impact it would have on me - and on other people in the theater.  Throughout the film I could hear audible gasps in the room.  At one point it sounded like someone behind me was quietly sobbing.  I even felt moved to tears at points in the movie.

I was moved by the stories of gay couples expressing their love for their partners - the rejection by family, friends, and members of the community - the very real fear, from those who were married during the brief interim, that their marriage could be ripped from them by being invalidated.  I think I have to agree with our local reviewer that the film ended better than is started; although, I was disappointed that our very own David Baker didn't get more screen time.

That said, there are some things I did not like about the movie
  • I felt they did an unfair portrayal of the Matis family - they selected quotes from the book "In Quiet Desperation" which, presented out of context, portrayed them as monsters.  Although I don't necessarily agree with their views - I personally have a lot of respect for Fred and Marilyn Matis.
  • In talking about the suicide of Stuart Matis, they didn't make it clear that it was over 10 years ago - making it seem like his suicide was directly related to the proposition 8 battle in California. 
  •  It addressed the alleged "aversion therapies" that were conducted at BYU - making it seem that they continue to this day.  While the LDS church and BYU vehemently deny such 'therapy' was ever conducted at BYU - there are enough first hand stories to make me believe that it did occur - mostly back in the 70's, perhaps even into the early 90's.  But I've seen no evidence that it has been done in the last 10-15 years - at least on the BYU campus.
In summary, the film is not going to change any minds.  In many ways, it was preaching to the choir as those who are inclined to view it are probably already in agreement with its message.  TBM's (True Believing Mormon's) will view this film as further evidence of Satans work and the biblical persecution of the righteous in the last days.  But, I'm glad I went to see it.

And, I'm glad I don't live in Dallas - $8 to see the afternoon matinee?  Sheesh, I could go see the afternoon matinee of "Toy Story 3" for $4 at the local theater in my home town.  And, just so you know, I don't live in some tiny hick town.  We have two theaters - one with 17 screens and the other with 30 screens.

I was glad to have someone to talk to about the movie after.  We drove over to the Dallas gayborhood - which really isn't a gay section of town, more of a 'gay tolerant' area where couples can feel safe walking around holding hands.  It's not like there are rainbow flags hanging in front of the store fronts.

We ate at the Cafe Brazil - which didn't seem very authentic brazilian to me.  But, I will have to say that my Chili Relleno crepe was quite delicious.  There are a couple of blocks in the gayborhood with gay bars (and a lesbian bar) and stores that cater to the gay community.  We went in some of the stores.  In the first couple of stores, the gay influence was quite subtle.  In fact, you could put that same store in some other part of town and most wouldn't notice a difference.  The last store we went to, however, was quite overt in who they were catering to.  This is the store to go to if you want a rainbow tie, a rainbow bumper sticker, or a naked man sculpture for your living room.  As I was walking towards the back of the store, I noticed that the merchandise was starting to take on a decidedly naughty tone.  Becoming slightly embarrassed, I turned around and headed towards the front of the store, grateful that they put that stuff together in the back of the store, but not before noticing the selection of sex toys hanging on the back wall.  I will have to say that some of "those things" are big - and don't look very comfortable.

When I returned home, three of my children were there (with spouses) playing a game.  We went to dinner together and enjoyed one another's company.

All in all, it was a good day.

But, I am curious to see if any mention will be made of this movie in church today.  I'm sure most probably weren't even aware that the film existed - but being reviewed in the local newspaper, I'm sure a film with "mormon" in the title is sure to catch their eye.


Mister Curie said...

Thanks for the review. I look forward to getting my own copy of the DVD in the mail, since they aren't showing it in Philadelphia.

austin said...

Just for the record, I don't think BYU officially denies doing aversion therapy. A friend of mine who is a gay BYU student got a copy of research done on the effectiveness of the therapy from the library (I think he had to specially request it though, it wasn't just sitting out on the shelves). It documented the methods and "success" they had. I believe the time period was the 70's.

I also thank you for the review. I was going to go to the DC premiere but it filled up too fast. David Baker was even in a panel discussion after the film, so it's doubly unfortunate.

TGD said...

I saw it out in DC. For me there was nothing new. I had been aware of the church's involvements going back to 1996 and I was aware of the motivations behind the "Family" Proclamation. Although, I didn't dive into it heavily. I was deeply closeted and repressed. It was just something I took note of that bothered be greatly about the church at the time.

I took a friend who had just moved out here from Utah. He's not Mormon. When he saw the film, he was very angry and said he lost any respect he ever had toward the church. He said he had no idea that the church was so deeply involved in anything like this.

I worked at the Capital Pride festival helping promote the film. I was surprised to learn about how little people knew about what happened in California. They had heard about it, but never really followed it in the media.

For me, I know many of the people in the film and it was a bit surreal watching them in this context. There was nothing in it that was new information. Although, it was nice to see all of it gathered into one place.

I would have certainly done things differently in the film. It is flawed, and although everything was factual, the juxtaposition of some of those facts I think will mislead on some things. Not major, but enough to manipulate some emotion. This film really needs to be expanded into a mini-series or something. Perhaps remove some of the slightly more sensational bits too. But then that wouldn't play well for theatrical release.

However, it is a great service to have this film in the public to remind people that even though a religion is protected by the constitution, once that religion enters into pubic politics, it is not immune to scrutiny just like any politician. And that includes the giving and receiving of misinformation that is, unfortunately what politics is all about.

I attended the 3:30 pm showing on Saturday and there were about 25 people in there. I understand that the evening showings were better attended.

Quiet Song said...

There is a pervasive misunderstanding in our society about documentary film regarding whether or not it should have a bias. The fact is that ALL documentarians have a bias. And that they present facts in a way that supports their perspective. Documentarians have extraordinary passion, feeling and commitment to their perspective, without which documentary films would never be made. I am sure this film is the same. Film is one of, it not the most interactive, mediums of art in existence. As time passes this will be but one part of the "record" on a difficult time.

Beck said...

Sounds like a great afternoon. I'm jealous.

PasserBi said...

When you came home from the movie your kids were home.

So wait...did you come out to your kids? Did I miss something?!

Abelard Enigma said...

did you come out to your kids?

No 'coming out' story to share - sorry. Although I doubt any of them will be totally surprised - I haven't yet sat down with any of them for "the talk"