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Small Town Gay Bar (2006)

7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 977 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 11 critic

The story of community in the Deep South that is forced to deal with the struggles of ignorance, hypocrisy and oppression.

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The story of community in the Deep South that is forced to deal with the struggles of ignorance, hypocrisy and oppression.

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We Watch, But We Are Never Surprised.
4 October 2009 | by (Cincinnati, OH, United States) – See all my reviews

When I say Small Town Gay Bar is the story of community in the Deep South that is forced to deal with the struggles of ignorance, hypocrisy and oppression, I don't actually mean it's a story. It's more of a patchwork. It is entirely horizontal; no depth, no highs or lows; simply a sequence of documented people and places. This is not an innately bad thing. If that were the way to tell an unequivocal account with responsible objectivity, then the film would achieve great impact. But the film offers nothing we haven't seen before and nothing we don't know.

There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the South is the worst place in the country to be gay. Malcolm Ingram's documentary gives us nothing more or less to digest. We see two Mississippi communities and the film bases those visits around two small gay bars. As well, the film visits Bay Minette, Alabama, to look at the brutal hate murder of Scotty Joe Weaver. We focus on a group of folks who are less concerned with the national debate over gay marriage than they are with the life risks they take being openly gay in small Southern towns.

Absolutely. If I were gay, I would much rather live in Maine or California, where I would long to live the life that 60% of straight Americans can't seem to get right, but I would nevertheless be able to publicly hold hands with my partner. In Massachusetts, I may find myself using more discretion with public affection, but I could walk down the alter with my significant other just like my parents and siblings can. In the South, the only benefit of being openly gay would be the little hole-in-the-wall, whether it be 5 minutes away or 2 hours away, where I could unwind and get laid on the weekend. We watch as a community is disgusted by the debaucherous chaos erupting regularly at one gay bar, since they can never seem to get it into their heads that prohibition and repression naturally lead their victims to obsession and overindulgence. We watch, indeed, but we are never at any time surprised.

Various documentaries on homosexuality in America have been fascinating, staggering and moving. For the Bible Tells Me So, Family Fundamentals, Out of the Past and After Stonewall come to mind. They provide insight into the accustomed homophobia of largely decent Christian communities, the astonishing justifications of fundamentalist parents who refuse to accept their children's "choices," gay figures from history who made profound impacts on society despite their inner suffering and turmoil, and events that we must never forget in this uphill battle for equality. Small Town Gay Bar does no more than skim the surface. It doesn't even give us a voice of reason from the opposition; it gives us the psychotic, megalomaniacal ramblings of Fred Phelps, who no one listens to or likes, even FOX News.

Kevin Smith, a talented writer-director whose fanbase covers the vast majority of teenage and young adult people of this generation, is executive producer of this film. His films seem to always glean some insight into the gay community, whether played for crude laughs or for emotional drama. He is the farthest thing from a gay man himself, which is what the LGBT rights movement needs much more of. The gesture is noble, sincere and a mature departure for his body of work, but as he puts a bit too much faith in his fans, he does in his friend, Malcolm Ingram. Ingram also made an earlier narrative film for Smith's View Askew Productions, Drawing Flies. Had he made Small Town Gay Bar a dramatic narrative film as well, rather than a virtually redundant documentary, it would've likely been enormously impactful.


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