GAY FILM REVIEWS BY MICHAEL D. KLEMM
Unrated, 59 minutes
"Our lives begin
to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
In this corner: weighing in with lies, bigotry, lobbyists and the power of hate: the dishonorable Rev. James Dobson and Focus On the Family. And in this corner: armed with truth, determination, civil disobedience and a ministry of love: the Rev. Mel White and Soulforce.
|Sole Journey is a new documentary, directed by Kate Burns and Sheila E. Schroeder that examines the peaceful and nonviolent resistance efforts of Soulforce to combat the rampant lies spread by the Rev. James Dobson and his ironically named group, Focus On The Family. Numerous members of Soulforce, including co-founder Rev. Dr. Mel White, explain how they utilize the nonviolent and civil disobedience tenets that were taught by both Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in their fight to achieve full civil rights. Confronting and exposing the lies of Dobson and his ilk, Soulforce engages in sit-ins, often allowing themselves to be arrested, in order to focus attention on their message. Showing the media that GLBT families are no different than anyone else is the other weapon of their modus operandi.|
A good part of the first half hour highlights the "toxic rhetoric" that is spewed from Focus On The Family's propaganda machine. Numerous video clips of the Rev. Dobson are shown in which he proselytizes that gay marriage will "destroy the family" and then the nation. We learn that Dobson is heard on over 3,000 radio stations throughout North America, that he is the author of 36 books, and that the lobbying wing of Focus On The Family raised 9 million dollars in its first 6 months of existence. Dobson is fighting for a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and he wants an end to what he calls "judicial tyranny." Rev. White of Soulforce maintains that "the church is doing more spiritual damage to this country than any other institution."
|White's story is an interesting one. Before coming out, he was a ghostwriter for Billy Graham, Jerry Fallwell, Jim Bakker and Pat Robertson. White married, had kids, shock treatments and aversion therapy - even an exorcism - to "cure" himself of being gay. Following a suicide attempt, his wife told him that he needed to live his own life. White organized a protest with eleven priests and Pat Robertson had him arrested. He was visited in jail by a representative from Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King's widow, who spoke to him about nonviolent resistance. In 1999, White founded Soulforce with his partner, Gary Nixon, in order to apply the tactics used by Gandhi and King in order to end "religion-based oppression."|
|Gandhi and King taught that the first goal of a nonviolent campaign is a "dialogue" between the opposing parties. When Dobson refused time and time again to meet with Soulforce, they had to move on to step two: "Direct Action." A march, in 2004, to the Focus On The Family headquarters to deliver an appeal to Dobson resulted in the arrest of a minister, his wife and their gay son (see also For The Bible Tells Me So to see the same footage of the Reitans' arrest). Most of the second half hour of Sole Journey is taken up by their 1000 Watt March, in 2005, in which several families took part in a 6 day trek from Denver to Colorado Springs to Dobson's headquarters. There Judy Shepherd, Matthew's mother, presented a photo album of GLBT familes to a representative from Focus On The Family who was there to refuse entry on the property to them. (Who knows what happened to the album five minutes later.)|
|It is upliftting to watch the courage of these ordinary people as they stand up for gay rights. The footage of their march is complimented by commentary and home movies from the couples and familes who participated. Some of their stories are amazing. One older lesbian, for example, marched on Washington with Martin Luther King. There is a lot of heart-tugging videos of these couples' happy children. Unfortunately it starts to get a bit repetitive after awhile, and the sappy music and schmaltzy songs in the background didn't help matters.|
|Sole Journey is an admirable documentary but it also feels incomplete. Half of its running length is spent on the march and spotlighting the families that participated, but Soulforce has done so much more that is never even mentioned in this movie. There are also the yearly Equality Rides and the numerous demonstrations and sit-ins (usually resulting in arrests) that Soulforce has staged on the campuses of several Christian Universities. This short documentary gives the impression that their only target is Dobson and Focus On The Family.|
But hey, it gets its message across and it's one that needs all the help it can get. Actor and activist Chad Allen (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Save Me) is also on board to lend a hand, and the directors found some rare and remarkable documentary footage of Martin Luther King being interviewed on a 1957 Philadelphia talk show named The Open Mind.
There are factions out there who would call this documentary "one-sided" but, come on, there are no "sides" when it comes to a civil rights issue. Because Dobson's organization has refused every offer to meet with Soulforce, it's not like the group hasn't given the opposing voice a chance to air their views as well.