(*homocinematically inclined)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: Sacred Cows

Joining the growing canon of movies that challenge traditional Judeo-Christian attitudes toward homosexuality (For the Bible Tells Me So, Call Me Troy, the upcoming Faith of the Abomination) is Ky Dickens' Fish Out of Water, out today on DVD from First Run Features.

Dickens kicks things off by relating her story of coming out as a lesbian while attending Vanderbilt University, a Christian college smack in the Bible belt state of Tennessee. While her conservative sorority sisters first reacted with horror and rejection, the experience led some of them as well as Dickens to explore their long-held but rarely questioned beliefs about GLBT people.

In her effort to get to the root of what the Old and New Testaments really say about homosexuality, Dickens consults various scholars and ministers. Representing the anti-GLBT side is, among others, the increasingly sanity-deficient Fred Phelps. Fortunately, GLBT champions including retired but revered Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong and the fabulous Rev. Amy-Jill Levine more than balance him out.

The film primarily utilizes tongue-in-cheek animation to illuminate the whopping seven passages in the entire Bible that ostensibly address sexual relations between members of the same gender. The acclaimed For the Bible Tells Me So also does so, but Fish Out of Water does it more concisely (the film runs a lean, mean 60 minutes) and, if with perhaps less emotional impact, more entertainingly.

Religion and lesbians also play key roles in Searching 4 Sandeep, one of the movies being shown during the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) that opens tonight. Between IFFLA — which will showcase Bollywood and independent films from Mahatma Gandhi's homeland — and the TCM Classic Film Fest opening Thursday, this is a very busy week for serious Hollywood moviegoers!

Engagingly directed, written and shot by Poppy Stockell, Searching 4 Sandeep recounts the early stages of the filmmaker's relationship with Sandeep Virdi, an Indian woman residing in Great Britain. The two meet through an Internet dating site and quickly forge an intense, long-distance attraction to each other.

The women seem like polar opposites. Poppy is a gregarious, out, Australian recovering from a nasty break-up. Sandeep is closeted, still in college and living with her conservative Sikh parents. Most significantly, Sandeep has yet to have sex or a relationship with another woman.

After an initial, successful face-to-face rendezvous in Bangkok, Poppy flies to England to visit Poppy and meet her family. Things don't quite go according to plan, as ingrained cultural expectations and family values threaten Sandeep and Poppy's delicate situation.

Between Stockell's confessional video style and sometimes-raw emotions on the part of all concerned laid bare, Searching 4 Sandeep is an in-your-face expose of the challenges that arise when differing worldviews collide. It is well worth seeing by GLBT viewers, as are many of the films that will screen during IFFLA's six nights. For more information, visit the festival's official website.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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