In the summer of 2005 a 16yo Memphis, TN wrote on his MySpace blog about his parents sending him to a "Fundamentalist Christian" program that strives to turn gay teens straight. This documentary follows the inspirational story of this teens local community standing up for their friend with daily protests at the facility in what would become an international news story. The documentary features several former clients of the organization who tell their personal stories about the time they spent within the programs walls.
the audience applauded
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Simply A Masterpiece
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The movie turns out to be a little better than the average. Starting from a romantic formula often seen in the cinema, it ends in the most predictable (and somewhat bland) way.
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I am happy and very grateful that I'm gay. I'm also happy and very grateful that Jesus loves me exactly as I am and MADE me exactly as I am. I would tend to support a movie like this, but it surprised me by leaving me completely flat.All the people interviewed as victims of Love in Action seem to be quite articulate, healthy and remarkably well-adjusted, which leaves me asking, "What harm did LIA do these people?" If anything, they seem better adjusted than people I know who never even heard of LIA or Exodus or any other ex-gay ministry.It's as if the LIA experience strengthened them and clarified for them that being gay really ISN'T something they can change. That's good, not bad. When a documentary that proposes to expose something bad ends up making it look not so bad at all, the documentary must be a failure, right?There's no passion in this movie, no fire in its belly, no exposé of abuse or injustice, nothing to get stirred up and indignant about. The movie just shows a few mild-mannered, well-intentioned, respectful protesters protesting against a few mild-mannered, well-intentioned (misguided, certainly, but evidently harmless), respectful people running a silly but harmless sort of ministry.There's a lot of talk in this movie about shame and fear and hatred, but there is not a single sign of anything like that anywhere in it. It's just very bland. A lot of talk, but no bite.I'm not saying that the ex-gay movement is harmless by any means, but that's how this movie makes it look; so this movie fails in its mission.The only truly disturbing element in this movie is the parents who are so blind and so screwed up themselves that they would force their child against his will into a program whose intention is to make the child into something the parents are not ashamed of. That is abominable and inexcusable abuse.The kid in this movie is lucky that the program his horrible parents sent him to was so innocuous. If he has lasting emotional scars from this ordeal, they will be from what his cruel, selfish parents did to him, not from what the silly people at Love in Action did to him.If the title of this movie had been This Is What Bad Parenting Looks Like, and if the parents had been the target of the exposé instead of the LIA program, the movie would have been more successful. But by focusing on a silly, harmless program rather than on the contempt parents show their children in forcing them INTO those programs, the movie missed its mark.
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"This is What Love in Action Looks Like"An Amazing DocumentaryAmos LassenI just had the good luck to see a film that is currently on the festival circuit and decided to review it now instead of waiting and letting what I saw sink in. Set in Memphis in 2005, Zach, a 16 year old wrote on his My Space blog that he had just come out to his parents and they did not take it very well. In fact the very next day they began it make plans for their son—they decided to send him a Fundamentalist Christian program that works with gay teens and turns them straight. The film follows Zach and what happened to him and how his friends and the LGBT community stood up for Zach and began daily protests at the Refuge program at Love in Action. I do not remember reading or hearing about this anywhere but that could be because I was just not paying attention—after all 2005 was a bad year for me with Katrina changing my life in ways I could never have dreamed of. And now that I am living in Little Rock, just two hours away from Memphis, I wonder why I didn't know more about this. Be that as it may, all of us will be hearing about it with the release of this excellent documentary from Morgan Jon Fox.This is one of the most amazing and interesting documentaries that I have seen and that with the fact that it has a very strong message makes it so important. A novel approach, Fox begins his film with pages from Zach's online blog and it is heartbreaking to read that a 16 year old wrote:May 29, 2005 The World Coming To An Abrupt Stop Current mood: depressed "Today, my mother, father, and I had a very long 'talk' in my room where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist Christian program for gays. They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me" and then he learns that he is going into a program that sees homosexuality as an addictive behavior and therefore it can be cured by using the necessary methods. Zach's parents hoped that gayness, his addiction would be cured and when he wrote this in his blog his friends rallied to support him. Soon Zach's story was not heard about in Memphis but it also began to appear in the nationwide media. Zach himself could not speak openly about what happened since the program would not allow him to have any kind of access to the media and he was not allowed to talk to his friends who were not in the program. His friends mobilized and brought in others and protests began. At the same time people everywhere wanted to know how he was doing. He was to be at the Refuge for eight weeks and by the time his "reorganization" was doing OK, people began to worry.It did not take long for national news stations to become involved and the international press also came on board. The film follows the events that caused the story to go national and then international. Ultimately the protests were successful in that the state of Tennessee investigated Love in Action and ordered it closed only to cause Love in Action turn around and file suit against the state. It is a fascinating story and a wonderful look at a concerned group o people that reacted to parents shaming their child and having him put into a radical institution that cannot do what it says it can. We also hear from Zach himself and he had decided that he didn't want to be contacted after his stay at Refuge.We are privy to the requirements of Love in Action/Refuge and they are shocking. Like Zach says, "it was like boot camp, only worse". At the institution (and I use that word loosely), young gay men and women are drilled on how to think and act "straight".I commend the author for having the courage to make this film especially in Tennessee where the state legislature has banned any reference to homosexuality from the school curriculum. I understand that the film has been six years in the making and Fox has every reason to be proud of what he has done. The film looks at a piece of American history as well as a call to us to realize that there is still much more that we need to fight for. Fox has been very lucky to have the film accepted to the major LGBT festivals especially to Frameline 35 in San Francisco. If you have a chance to see it, do so by all means otherwise toy will have to wait for the DVD release.In 2007, Refuge was shut down and in fact the director, John Smid, not only left Love in Action but wrote a letter of apology to those he has hurt. There is so much more that I could say but to do would take away from your experience of seeing the film and that is something that I will not do so.
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