Judge Brett Cullum is taking you to "straight camp" in the land of Bibles and barbecue.
It's okay to be gay even in the buckle of the Bible Belt.
In Memphis, TN for quite a while there was a faith-based program called LOVE IN ACTION, and its sole purpose was to help gay men turn straight or at least make them "ex-gay" through a Christian program. The idea was to treat homosexuality as an addiction that could be broken with the right combination of scripture and behavioral adjustment. Now, for the majority of the run it was for adult men who came into the process voluntarily, but at some point a youth group was developed for adolescents that were mainly brought in by distraught parents. Sometime in 2005, Zack Stark was a young man who came out, and he found himself enrolled in LOVE IN ACTION by his concerned mother and father. He broadcast over the Internet through his online journals and MySpace that he was not going willingly, and his plight inspired protests at the facility as well as outrage in the blogosphere. The actual pickets at the site weren't huge throngs of people, but they supported Zack with positive messages. It brought out a lot of attention on a Christian group that blasted the message that "Gay is not acceptable," and it fueled a fire that eventually consumed the organization itself. LOVE IN ACTION fell apart, Zack came to grips with himself, and This is What Love in Action Looks Like was formed.
Memphis director Morgan Jon Fox was at the center of his own film in that he helped organize the protests and just had his camera handy. It made sense for him to chronicle the events since he had the equipment. Morgan held on to his footage, and over a span of six and a half years he caught the story of Zack and LOVE IN ACTION as they reached natural conclusions. The film works because it never comes off as preachy; Morgan allows the participants to tell their own stories in their own ways. We get Zack Stark calmly talking as a well-adjusted young man, and conversely we hear from the director of LOVE IN ACTION, John Smid, after he resigned. It makes for a nice perspective from both since they have hindsight and time to process the events. There's a nice mix of "heat of the moment" footage combined with "after the fact" interviews. Also included are Memphis local figures, such as writer Chris Davis of The Memphis Flyer, playwright Peterson Toscano, and blogger EJ Friedman. They are joined with people who participated at the demonstrations, former clients of LOVE IN ACTION, and journalists who covered the story.
TLA Releasing has done a good job with This is What Love in Action Looks Like, providing the feature and some extras to support it. The standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks like your typical documentary made from various sources. The action footage from the 2005 protests is a mixed bag of quality, and the talking head discussions look clear and fine. Colors are natural, and there are no digital artifacts. Extras include an informative, twenty-minute discussion panel featuring all the major players in the project save for Zack Stark. There is a marriage proposal from Morgan on the extras as well, which he does at the screening. Rounding out the extras are a photo gallery and the trailer.
It's hard to imagine that LOVE IN ACTION existed and thrived, preying on the self-hatred many gay men had with themselves. It's even more horrific that it took in kids struggling with identity, and beat them with Bibles and messages that they were weak and inadequate. This film tells an important story, because hopefully the tide has turned. I hope that in a decade or so this all sounds like science fiction as acceptance and tolerance grows for homosexuals. This is What Love in Action Looks Like captures the swan song of a group who's time has passed. It's a real life David and Goliath story, one where the zealot is the bully and the hero is a small gay teen that everybody rallies around. It's a neat film that is summed up best when Chris Davis says that as a new parent the last thing he would want is someone to shame his child. That's the message: the idea that love is taking action against those who would do that to a young person.
Guilty of showing "straight camp" and the flaws of being sent to one. The
film is set free to become historical and eventually look like fiction.
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