Monday, October 29, 2007

For the Bible Tells Me So

You can learn more about this film and view a schedule of screenings here.

Director Daniel Karslake gave an interview in which he describes why he felt compelled to create this film:

...When I got to In the Life, I noticed they were never doing any stores about religion. I talked to the executive producer about that, and I said, "You know, I think religion is a huge issue both for gay and lesbian people themselves but also for straight people who want to understand what it is to be gay and lesbian, but who are really held back from what they hear the Bible says about it. There's so much going on here; why aren't you guys doing this story?" And the executive producer said, "Well, this is PBS, we get a lot of public funding, and that's just too controversial and too scary. We've shied away from it."

So I pitched them this story about this woman at Harvard who I had read about who had this really amazing life story. She was an African-American woman from Brooklyn who, at 6 months, they think, was found in a garbage can; she'd been thrown out in Prospect Park. She was taken to the New York Foundling Hospital and named Irene Monroe because Sister Irene, who ran the hospital, loved Marilyn Monroe. She was brought up by functionally illiterate foster parents, but by the time she was 18, she ended up at Wellesley on a full scholarship, attended Union Theological Seminary and now is at Harvard. And I thought her story was really interesting, and I also read a lot about how well she talked about religion to people who didn’t even know they were being spoken to about religion; she was called a "street theologian," and she's a lesbian. I pitched that story, they allowed me to do it. It included a theologian from Harvard named Peter Gomes who had the number one best-selling book at that point called The Good Book; he's the university minister at Harvard, and he had a really interesting chapter about homosexuality in which he said that the religious right had gotten it all wrong.

The next day I got an e-mail from a gay kid in Iowa who had seen the story the night before. It was something like five lines: "Last week I bought the gun. Yesterday I wrote the note. Last night I happened to see your show, and just knowing that some day, somewhere, I might be able to go back into my church with my head held high, I threw the gun in the river. My mom never has to know." It was the first of many e-mails like that I got over the next three years because I started doing a lot of religion reporting for In the Life. They realized how many gay people -- especially in the middle of the country -- were not even aware that religious people of all types were really starting to understand the Bible differently. So that e-mail for me was really what fueled all of my work.

And as I produced more and more for In the Life, I got frustrated because In the Life is really hard to find on PBS; it's not part of the feed, so it's on at different times in all different markets, and it was also kind of preaching to the choir a little bit. It's really only watched by gay and lesbian people, and I really wanted straight people to at least start to consider this. That's why I decided to make the film. I wanted to make a film that really appealed to a more mainstream audience, that told stories of non-gay people who were struggling with this. This is not a movie about the gay people and gay kids; it's really about the parents, because I really want straight audiences to see themselves onscreen and see what that struggle is -- and also see where these couple have come from, and where they've arrived...
It appears I've already missed the Philadelphia and New York screenings. I understand it will be coming out on DVD soon.

The film can also be booked to be viewed by organizations, which, apparently, is what All Saints, Pasadena did. If anyone knows of a suitable place in the Philadelphia/New York area that could host a screening, I'd be interested in helping sponsor such an event.


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