Friday, September 05, 2008

save me

I wrote film criticism for Christianity Today Movies for its first few years, and while I had to let that go for time reasons, I still love the site, and really look forward to reading reviews by some very perceptive writers, including Vancouverites Peter Chattaway and Carolyn Arends, and Jeffrey Overstreet just down the road in Seattle. (Other great writers there as well: Josh Hurst's review of THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA is exceptional, Stephen Greydanus is always worth reading, Frederica Mathews-Green wrote one of my all-time favourite reviews - a mischievous, feisty response to CHOCOLAT - though it was years before CTM came into being.)

Point being, I subscribe to editor Mark Moring's weekly CT Movies newsletters. (When you arrive at the site, a box will pop up where you can subscribe). This week's is very much one of his best, (Hmm... Wonder what that says about those articles that are especially hard to write, those weeks that are especially hard to live?), about a film that completely intrigues me...

God & Gay Conversation

Some weeks, it's kind of easy to write this newsletter, because there's a new movie or a hot topic that pretty much speaks for itself, and the words just flow. Some weeks, it's hard to come up with anything—usually because there's not much going on worth comment—and I'll end up staring at a blank screen, my fingers itching to be told which keys to punch.

This is one of those hard weeks, but not because there's nothing to say. It's because there's almost too much to say—and all because of one little movie. That's the way it goes when that film, Save Me, just happens to be about a drug- and sex-addicted gay man who finds faith, hope, and love—but not a "cure"—at an "ex-gay" Christian ministry.

Talk about a loaded topic. But also, talk about a film with high hopes.

Chad Allen is a gay actor I first met when End of the Spear released in 2006. He played the role of missionary martyr Nate Saint in that film, creating a bit of a stir among Christian conservatives. But Allen says that it was on the Spear set that he first began to realize that all Christians aren't the homophic haters he assumed they were; he met believers—including Steve Saint, son of the man that Allen played—who embraced him (but not his lifestyle) with warmth and compassion.

I've maintained occasional correspondence with Allen since then, and I've been long looking forward to his next film project, Save Me, which opens—in very limited release—today. Be sure to read my interview with Allen, who plays Mark, a promiscuous, drug-addicted gay man who, at the end of his rope and at the behest of his brother, checks into Genesis House, a Christian "ex-gay" ministry. At the home, Mark finds God, compassion, and acceptance, and his self-image and self-respect soars. But he doesn't find a "cure" for his homosexuality—and he's apparently OK with that.

The Christian couple in charge of the home are portrayed as reasonable, loving folks who truly care about these men. Since the people behind the film were primarily from the gay community, it would have been easy to lampoon and stereotype the Christians as gay-bashing radicals. Allen says that would've been too easy, and that wasn't his goal anyway—partly because of the loving Christians he met on End of the Spear. Allen's hope is to help improve the conversation between gays and evangelicals, to tear down some of the walls between the two camps in hopes of more and better dialogue.

Fuller Seminary prof Craig Detweiler thinks Allen and Save Me have accomplished just that, saying the film is a "step forward in conciliatory efforts between artists, filmmakers, the gay community, and the conservative Christian community," And he lauds Allen and the filmmakers for their "courage to upend stereotypes on both sides."

I agree with Detweiler, and hope that more Christians get a chance to see the film. It's only playing in New York right now, but will expand to more cities in the months ahead. But if you choose to see it, be warned: The first five minutes or so are quite explicit, with a steamy gay sex scene that includes a very strung-out drug addict. After that, though, the film remains mostly in PG-13 territory, with a bit of foul language. But if you can get beyond that, I think you'll find a film that does a good job of, as Allen says, advancing "the conversation of God and gay."

Is Save Me a film you'd be interested in watching—whether it comes to a theater near you or someday on DVD? Let us know in our weekly poll.

Meanwhile, Reel News reports that Religulous, the upcoming Bill Maher flick that spoofs and bashes religion—not just Christianity, but all religions—is getting some buzz as a possible Oscar contender. Heaven help us.

See you at the movies,

Mark Moring
Editor, CT Movies

No comments: