GAY MEETS GOD IN DOCUMENTARY ‘WONDERFULLY MADE’
Out On Film, Atlanta’s gay film festival, celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. One of the can’t-miss films is “Wonderfully Made” — LGBTQ+R(eligion), a featurelength documentary meets fine-art project that examines the anti-LGBTQ viewpoints of the Catholic Church and the lack of diversity and queer representation within religious spaces and art. Emmy winner and LGBTQ activist Yuval David and his husband, Mark McDermott, take on the arduous task of including queer voices and faces in religious artwork and analyzing the complicated relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBTQ community.
David’s directorial and creative abilities, for which he won an Emmy earlier this year in the Talent: Program Host/Moderator/ Correspondent category for his short-form series One Actor Short, are on full display in Wonderfully Made. The project took nearly four years to complete and highlights the importance of representation and inclusivity within religious spaces.
McDermott was David’s inspiration for the film. McDermott’s Catholic faith was important to him, but he felt it failed to positively represent his sexual identity. David saw this as an opportunity to create religious art that would include his partner and the LGBTQ community.
“Art is the form of advocacy that is [not only] for my husband but for anybody that is, like him, searching for that representation,” David told Georgia Voice.
“There is a lacuna throughout art history and religious art” depicting nonheterosexual, noncisgender, nonwhite religious iconography that needs to be corrected, according to David.
“It was very hard to find a high art, fine art representation of an LGBTQ Jesus,” he said. “We wanted to create something like all of the iconographies that are seen on the walls of churches … on the walls of galleries and art museums.”
“Admittedly, I don’t do anything small,” David joked. In response to his husband, McDermott spoke on the evolution of the project, “[what] started as a 10-minute documentary short to a massive art project with a huge collaborative team to a 95-minute feature-length documentary,” touching on the anti-LGBTQ views from the Catholic Church, including the 2016 Pulse shooting in Orlando and the lack of support from the Church at that time.
“Catholicism has a rich history of social activism,” David said. “There is a passionate group of individuals working inside the church to minister to the LGBTQ community. I wanted to hear their stories, and understand the challenges that they face.”
Some of the most outspoken figureheads – like Bryan Massingale, the only openly gay Black Catholic priest in the world, and Father James Martin, S. J., American Jesuit priest and writer — appear in the film to explore the relationship between the LGBTQ community and the Catholic Church.
In the film, Massingale describes the damage that lacking representation in religion has done: “If we can’t imagine ourselves in the image of God, then that does irreparable spiritual harm to us.”
Anti-LGBTQ sentiments from the Catholic Church and its members have long plagued the lives and safety of members of the LGBTQ community. Even the most progressive of his rank, Pope Francis, has seemingly mixed beliefs on LGBTQ rights and the community.
It should come as no surprise that the film will spark controversy.
“It might ruffle feathers before they even see it,” David said. The Catholic Church has both passively and actively condemned homosexuality, citing homosexuality as the issue, not pedophilia, in regard to the sex abuse committed by the clergy in the Catholic Church, kicking out transgender members who are waiting to receive communion, and refusing to acknowledge the sanctity (and legality) of marriage between two members of the same sex.
“It was very hard to find a high art, fine art representation of an LGBTQ Jesus. We wanted to create something like all of the iconographies that are seen on the walls of churches ... on the walls of galleries and art museums.”
The request for inclusivity and acceptance of LGBTQ people in religious spaces has always been controversial, but Wonderfully Made creates the opportunity for these two unlikely identities to blend. The fine art photography project depicts nine models of various races, sexualities, and gender identities as some of the most recognizable images of Jesus. The images will be available to view following the screening at wonderfullymadefilm.com.
Wonderfully Made screens Saturday, September 24 at 5pm at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and will be available for streaming the same day.
It’s rare, but occasionally you’ll see something at Out on Film that’s so original and made with such skill by a hot new talent, you’ll think you’re at Sundance. Out On Film ends on a high note with “Chrissy Judy,” the first feature by writerdirector-producer-editor Todd Flaherty. Did I mention he also stars as Judy, half of a pair of underappreciated New York drag queens? Judy and Chrissy (Wyatt Fenner) are the kind of besties who promised to marry each other if they were still single at 30. When the time comes, they push the deadline back to 40, but Chrissy has a serious boyfriend who invites him to move to Philadelphia with him. This introduces Judy to a new kind of loneliness, and he tries different ways of coping. The blackand-white
Though not technically a superhero movie, “In from the Side” is the work of an emerging superhero: Matt Carter. He’s the film’s writer, director, cinematographer, editor, a producer, composer, performer and a few miscellaneous credits — a possible record for multitasking. Usually such an effort results in a small-scale, low-budget film, but this one has a broad scope and excellent production values. It also has a plot, a gay love story concerning rugby players. The allgay South London Stags have an A Squad and a B Squad. Mark (Alexander Lincoln) is the MVP of the latter. Warren (Alexander King) is returning to the A team after being sidelined with an injury. Each is in a longterm relationship, which complicates things when their initial hookup leads to more and more involvement, and they have to hide it from their teammates and everyone else they know. Carter writes himself into such a corner I can’t imagine an ending that would be completely satisfying, but most of what comes before is as good as anything you’ll see in this or most other LGBTQ festivals.
Filmmaker Peter McDowell plays detective to learn how his older brother Jimmy lived and died in Saigon in 1972 at the age of 24. They were the oldest and youngest of six siblings in a Catholic (naturally) Illinois family. Despite claiming to be a conscientious objector, Jimmy was drafted in 1969 and sent to Vietnam at the height of the war. After being discharged he chose to go back to Saigon — “for hedonistic pleasures,” he wrote. He said he was close to a young woman and lived with her family. When he died, “heroin abuse” was blamed. In 2010, Peter started working on this film to resolve unanswered questions. He went through Jimmy’s letters and sought out people who had known him. In 2016 he went to Saigon in search of Jimmy’s return address, the number of which had changed, and his “girlfriend,” who had moved to America. But he didn’t quit. Besides letters and photos, Peter has amassed an impressive number of clips — from old home movies to period news and scenic footage. He’s also interviewed family and friends to paint a slowly evolving portrait of the brother he lost when he was five. It’s a moving story, well told, with an executive producer credit for gay writer and advice columnist, Dan Savage.
Where in the world can you go for a haircut without worrying about encountering hypermasculinity, racism, homophobia or transphobia? Manscaping is an hourlong portrait of three LGBTQ people from Pittsburgh, Vancouver and Sydney who have provided different answers to that question. Devan Shimoyama overcame his childhood fear of barbers by creating collages about haircuts, applying jewels, glitter and other objects and materials to his paintings, winding up with exhibitions in New York and Washington DC. Transman Jessie Anderson opened Big Bro’s