In My Father’s Church

2004
Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Charissa King
Directed by Charissa King
VHS, color, 49 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Gay and Lesbian Studies, Psychology, Religious Studies, Sociology


Reviewed by Monique Threatt, Indiana University, Herman B Wells Library, Bloomington, IN

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 3/15/2006

Filmmaker Charissa King’s journey to wed in a church that forbids same-sex unions is the focus of this documentary. Filmed over a period of several years, a prominent figure in King’s film is her father, Jack K. King, a soft-spoken, warm, and supportive person who is also the pastor of Southampton’s United Methodist Church (UMC), a church known for its rules against homosexual marriages. When the filmmaker intimates that she would like to marry her partner Kelly in Jack’s church, his reaction is not the response she hopes for. Jack remains silent. He is torn between his love for his only daughter, backlash from church officials, and negative reactions from his conservative congregation. The 1999 church trial and suspension of James Creech, a former United Methodist pastor who performs a same-sex union, becomes the point-of-reference to justify why same-sex partners shouldn’t marry in the Methodist church.

King’s video diary reveals mixed and honest attitudes about same-sex unions, and explores other issues such as politics and religion, and father/daughter relationships. What is lacking is a developed relationship between Charissa and Kelly. At times, this reviewer found it hard to believe the two are in love. For example: Kelly has very little dialogue in the film; Kelly dances with men at a relative’s wedding to hide her sexual orientation, while Charissa looks on heartbroken and silent; Kelly confides on-camera that if she were to come out of the closet, she would eternally be labeled “the lesbian,” a title she deeply deplores; and lastly, both women are ill-at-ease to discuss their wedding plans or share the good news as they simultaneously try on wedding gowns. This reviewer felt more intimacy was shared in March of the Penguins.

However, a love story between Charissa and Kelly is clearly not the driving force behind this film. The heart of the film occurs two years after filming begins with a meeting between father and daughter. How apropos that Charissa and Jack interview each other on the altar steps inside the UMC? It is during this time that we learn that Jack, for whatever reasons, has become the leader of an anti-bias task force in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to ban homosexuality in the Boy Scouts. During this conversation, this reviewer witnesses a strong bond that exists between these two loving people, and sees daddy’s little girl who once likened her father to Jesus Christ. Yet, it’s clear that a shroud of emptiness engulfs Charissa as she asks Jack why he wouldn’t take a stance against the Methodist Church at the time she wanted to marry in his church. Jack responds, “I’d prefer to side with causes that I could win.” Ouch.

Despite some minor flaws with the film, what makes the technical aspects of this film remarkable are the filmmaker’s experience to draw upon her background in painting, photography, and initiate heart-felt interviews about a hot topic that is highly controversial in several states. King made a wise decision to bring on-board award-winning editor, David Simpson (Refrigerator Mothers) who artistically combines the vision of the filmmaker with music by John Howard to create a professional video diary of one’s woman’s quest to have a church wedding without demonizing the Methodist church, or pointing the finger at one individual.

This program is ideal for college and university libraries to support gay & lesbian, gender, psychology, religious, and sociology studies programs. The relationship between homosexuality and religion has been a topic for discussion for many years, but civil liberty lawyers are working around the clock to change social attitudes about same-sex unions and shatter stereotypes about what constitutes a traditional family. Therefore, in addition to this film, I also recommend collection managers consider Among Good Christian People (Frameline), The Gay Marriage Thing (Cinema Guild), and Out in the Heartland (Frameline) for their collections.

I highly recommend this film for college and general adults, with some reservations for senior high students.