The latest in gay-interest home video releases…
Love Free or Die (Wolfe Video):
This award-winning documentary by gay director Macky Alston (Questioning Faith: Confessions of a Seminarian) is inspiring and infuriating in equal measure. Alston’s subject is Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who last year concluded his controversial tenure as head of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. Robinson suffered public criticism, private death threats and the scorn of many of his fellow bishops in the global Anglican Communion in the wake of his election as bishop in 2003, all because he is openly gay and partnered. Never mind that he is also a compassionate, learned, wise, dedicated and holy man of God.
Robinson’s election and subsequent travails have been recounted to some extent in previous documentaries, notably 2007’s For the Bible Tells Me So. Alston, however, focuses exclusively on the bishop and spent the better part of seven years following Robinson. Most significant during that time was Robinson’s exclusion from the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Church’s gathering of bishops held every ten years in London. Disappointed but undeterred, Robinson went to London anyway to meet with other disenfranchised Christians, and Alston’s camera was on hand to capture key moments. For me, the film’s most powerful, moving sequence occurs when Robinson, not invited with the gathered bishops to tea with the Queen, chooses to have tea with HIV-infected “commoners” instead. It is exactly what Jesus would have done.
Love Free or Die also reveals how far the Episcopal Church has come regarding the full inclusion of LGBT people in the last decade, largely and ironically thanks to the backlash to Robinson’s consecration. While it has had to whether departures from more conservative/traditionalist clergy and members, some of whom left to form rival congregations and others to join the Roman Catholic Church, Episcopalians are now the undisputed leaders within mainstream American Christianity when it comes to incorporating men and women in same-sex relationships. This was cemented in 2009, when an overwhelming majority of the church’s bishops, clergy and laity voted against the larger Anglican Communion’s will to not only continue ordaining bishops in committed same-sex relationships but to bless same-sex unions among its clergy and laity as well.
Some of the film’s content can be upsetting, especially the inexcusable decision of Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican primate, to ban Robinson from the Lambeth Conference. Williams clearly placed his fear of reprisals from church conservatives over the sacramental and fraternal responsibility he had to a duly-elected and consecrated fellow bishop. Shame on him, but kudos to Robinson for hanging in there despite all obstacles, and to filmmaker Alston for documenting it all so well.
Reverend’s Rating: B+
Broadway Damage (Village Art Pictures):
Of all the fine gay independent movies deserving of a Blu-ray release, I wouldn’t put this 1997 romantic-comedy at the top of my list. Great as it looks in hi-def, the New York-centric plot hasn’t aged well. A trio of pals (played by Michael Lucas, Aaron Williams and Mara Hobel, best known as little Christina Crawford in Mommie Dearest) deal with boyfriend, roommate and rodent issues. Hugh Panaro, who has gained considerable success since in such Broadway hits as The Phantom of the Opera, co-stars as a struggling singer and gay love interest. Much of writer-director Victor Mignatti’s script feels forced and padded, making the film feel at least 15 minutes too long. The performances are of mixed quality as well. Broadway Damage may best be appreciated as a time capsule, complete with oversized cell phones, Friends-inspired fashions and gay 90’s hairstyles.
Reverend’s Rating: B-
Vampire Boys 2: The New Brood (Ariztical Entertainment):
The first Vampire Boys sucked (pardon the pun) and was hardly deserving of a sequel but it must have rented well. Chapter two is actually something of an improvement. Both films feature a gang of bisexual bloodsuckers on the hunt for new recruits. Here, they are running an underground fight club too. Can a Twilight-inspired trio of two hot guys and a pretty girl (the twist is that the guys are the primary couple) stop them? Vampire Boys 2 is a bit more polished than the first film and amps up both the gay content and full-frontal male nudity. Young gay Twi-hards will likely enjoy sinking their teeth into it. Everyone else should stick with Interview with a Vampire.
Reverend’s Rating: C+
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.