Exgay "ministries" focues of new film.
One of the saddest examples of fundamentalism has been the so-called “exgay” ministries. Once run by “exgays” that period pretty much ended after the exgays turned out to be not so exgay after all. Now many of the leaders are people who, while straight, were hurt to find that someone they loved was gay. Not long ago one major exgay group admitted that most the people who attend their meetings are the fundamentalist parents of gay children who simply can’t accept the fact that their child is gay.
A new film on this topic has just been shown at the Sundance film festival. Entitled Save Me it stars Chad Allen, Richard Gant and Judith Light. The three main stars were also producers of the film. Gant and Allen are gay. Sundance describes the film this way:
Save Me, is a film about redemption. Mark (Chad Allen), a lost, young, gay man, leads a wild life of drugs and meaningless sex, searching desperately to fill the emptiness in his soul. When Mark finally hits bottom, his brother checks him into Genesis House, a 12-step, Christian, "ex-gay" ministry specializing in healing sexual brokenness.
Genesis House is the life mission of Gayle (Judith Light) and her husband, Ted (Stephen Lang). Haunted by her past, Gayle is determined to save young homosexual men from their personal demons. Scott (Robert Gant), one of the program's "fifth phasers," is Mark's mentor. The growing friendship between these two men threatens Gayle. Increasingly suspect of Scott's motives, Gayle fights back, refusing to let her carefully controlled world fall apart. Torn by the specter of damnation and the pull of their hearts, Mark and Scott are forced to confront their truth.
The nuanced screenplay by Craig Chester, Alan Hines, and Robert Desiderio conveys the insidious harm of Christianity gone awry, while gracefully avoiding the pitfalls of cliché. Superbly shot amidst the beauty of the New Mexico desert and boasting exceptionally layered performances from its gifted stars, Save Me is pointedly topical and powerfully moving
Judith Light had starred as Angela Bowers in the old sitcom Who’s the Boss? where she worked with child star Danny Pintauro, who also admitted he was gay. Gant played Ben Bruckner in Queer as Folks and Allen is best known for his role of Matthew Cooper in 72 episodes of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Allen and Gant are also co-partners in Mythgarden, the production company behind Save Me.
One of the more surprising reviews of the film appeared in Christianity Today. Rev. David Swanson attended the Sundance festival with students from Fuller Theological Seminary. He says he can only “recommend sparingly” this film because: “I left the theatre completely wrecked--my head spinning.” Why sparingly is never made clear.
He writes: “One of the things that struck me about this film was how the filmmakers (some who are themselves gay as we learned during the question and answer time following the screening) portrayed the motives and stories of the conservative Christians who lead the ex-gay ministry with tenderness and grace. Is it possible that many in the gay community are more gracious in their understanding of Evangelical Christians than we are towards them?”
He continues discussing the “numerous men” “who wept during the most poignant moments of the film and wondered “how willing are we to acknowledge our own role in much of that painful memory?”
In the film Allen plays a conflicted gay man who falls into drugs. The role is not a stretch for Allen who admits that from age 12 to 24 he was using a variety of drugs. He says he was deeply depressed because he didn’t know how to deal with his sexuality. Allen got his start in television when just eight years old. One of his early roles that is best remembered was as Tommy Westphall in St. Elsewhere. In the final show of the series it is implied that the entire story line was nothing more than the imagination of the autistic boy play by Allen.
Allen was considered a teen age pinup surrounded by screaming girls who wanted him. He says he received letters from teens telling him how perfect their life would be if they could be just like him. He says: “And I was like, ‘no, you don’t understand!’ No one wants to hear that a 12-year-old kid isn’t sure if he wants to live.” As one journalist wrote: “Figuring out that you’re gay while screaming girls rip off your clothes is a mindfuck.” Allen eventually admitted his sexuality and was able to deal with his drug use as a result of it.
Gant and Allen, along with David Duchovny, are working on another film together, The Way Out.