Thursday, January 5, 2023

Palm Springs Welcomes a Controversial Gay Documentary

The new year is bringing an intriguing new LGBTQ film to Southern California that is stirring up controversy, even though it hasn’t even been released theatrically or on streaming.

1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture is a feature documentary that follows the story of tireless researchers who trace the origins of the modern-day, anti-gay movement among Christians to a grave mistranslation of the Bible in 1946. It will celebrate its local premiere with three screenings during the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF), which runs today through January 16th. For the screening schedule and tickets or passes, visit the PSIFF website.

Produced and directed by Sharon “Rocky” Roggio, it chronicles the discovery of never-before-seen archives at Yale University which unveil astonishing new revelations and cast significant doubt on any modern biblical basis for LGBTQIA+ prejudice. Featuring commentary from prominent scholars as well as opposing pastors (one of whom is Roggio’s own father), 1946 is at once challenging, enlightening and inspiring.

“The heartbeat of the film are the personal stories of its creators, including my own,” Roggio said. “In a sense, my story is not exceptional. I was raised in a loving home, the daughter of a Christian pastor who believes being gay is a sin. Realizing I was a lesbian at a young age, I carried tension, fear, and spiritual anxiety because of how my family believed.”

Of note, the Executive Producer of 1946 is Daniel Karslake. An award-winning film, theater, and television writer/director/producer, Karslake previously made For They Know Not What They Do, about four families of faith who discover they have a gay or trans child. It premiered in competition at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and won seven audience awards and three jury prizes in festivals around the world. The doc was a follow up to Karslake’s first film, For the Bible Tells Me So, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and was short-listed for a 2008 Academy Award. Entertainment Weekly magazine has more recently listed it as “one of five documentaries that has changed the world,” and it has been translated into more than 20 languages worldwide.

Roggio’s new documentary shows how the word homosexual did not appear in the Bible until 1946, when a group of all-male, all-white, and presumably all-straight scripture scholars mistranslated the Greek words malakoi (meaning “weak” or “soft,” and sometimes misconstrued as “effeminate”) and arsenokoitai (which referred to economic and/or sexual abuse of a younger person). Words that more accurately condemned pedophilia or other abuse of vulnerable people were nonsensically applied to mature men who lie with/have consensual sex with other mature men.

According to Roggio: “I came across the research surrounding the mistranslation of the Bible in 2018, and my life immediately changed. My mission and purpose became clear. This research needed to be brought out into the light. What started off with a few cameras at a conference with a nonexistent budget has absolutely blossomed into a movement that I could not have foreseen. Today, 1946 has an established dedicated team of volunteers who’ve contributed their time, money, and efforts to bring this film to the world.”

Perhaps predictably, some current pastors and biblical scholars have already denounced Roggio’s documentary without even seeing it. Biblical Literalism, however, noted in its review of the film: “While other documentaries have been successful in their attempt to treat the symptoms of homophobia in the church, 1946 is working to diagnose and treat the disease.”

I encourage SoCal viewers to see 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture this month during PSIFF 2023 and decide for yourself.

Reviews by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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