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Michael T. Weiss,
Presents a very real, honest look at gay life in a small town...
If the reality presented in this documentary is too much for some reviewers, that's too bad. Thankfully for the rest of us this is an incredibly well made, thoughtful documentary for people with enough maturity to realize that while not everything in life can be glowsticks and glitter, that doesn't make it any less worth living.
This documentary shows a lot of different sides of gay life through telling the story of several different gay bars in the "Bible belt," both hardships and the joys. Describing this movie as depressing (and deeming it unfit to see because of it) seems short- sighted in the extreme.
There are a lot of depressing moments. Any time Phelps gets any screen time it is dismaying, but he's a great figure to use to show the very extreme of anti-gay movements. If every queen is out getting blissed out of their mind and ignoring hate mongers like Phelps, his numbers only grow stronger. Know thy enemy. The filmmakers clearly juxtapose Phelps and his followers with the simple, sweet sentiments of the brother of a slain gay man. I think it was quite powerful.
And if anything, I think the film has a message of hope. Despite all the trials, the gay bars in little town are still sticking it out thanks to a few brave individuals, with arguably more heart and sense of community their well coiffed city counterparts can muster these days.\
The film does suffer a bit when it tries to tell the story of "Tula's" mostly because it explores it with less depth than Crossroads or Rumors and it feels a bit tacked on, even though some of the info it offered is interesting, especially in relation to the AFA. But that's my only real complaint.
As a young gay man, I found this movie inspiring. These people are the pioneers in the wild wild west of an oppressively straight (and yes, sometimes cruel) world. It's not safe for them, it's not easy - but they're finding their moments of joy and a place to belong without running away from the places they grew up.
It's easy to wonder - why stay? That's like asking a family in a bad neighborhood - why stay? If there are drug dealers at every corner and bullets flying through the window why do you stay? The truth is, it's not always easy to leave for a number of complicated reasons. There's economics, family, affection for a certain town or landscape... or a mixture of all of them. Should every LGBTQ person flee to a big city, protected in a gay ghetto bubble without having to worry about what is happening in the other 90% of the country? I don't think so. I'd never begrudge them for doing so, as almost every person in the homosexual community has had their fair share of knocks. But to write those who chose to stay off as stupid or miserabilists is unfair in the extreme.
I think they're heroes to be applauded, and I applaud the filmmakers for shining a light on them.
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