A new documentary regarding the ex-gay world is premiering this weekend at a Birmingham, AL film festival. Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-gay Movement will be shown on Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 11:30am at the WorkPlay Theatre in Birmingham.
The film bills itself in this way:
CHASING THE DEVIL: INSIDE THE EX-GAY MOVEMENT is a feature documentary film presenting an unflinching look at the personal journeys of four people who claim to have changed their sexual orientation from gay to straight. Their stories mark the first time documentary filmmakers have been allowed inside the “ex-gay” movement and provide an empathetic and, at times, devastating portrait of those who claim homosexuality is an illness that can be healed.
Although I am not sure this film is the first time filmmakers have been allowed inside the “movement,” the advanced buzz caught my eye several months ago and I have been following the development of the video since. Several familiar faces are in the movie, including Richard Cohen, who adds magnets to his magic act. You can watch the trailer here:
What follows is an email interview with Producer/Director Bill Hussung:
Throckmorton: What prompted you to take up the topic of the ex-gay movement?
Hussung: Our initial interest in the issue was sparked by the publication of the Spitzer study. We knew Dr. Spitzer by reputation, and while his study has been roundly criticized by the larger psychiatric community, it caught our attention, and we started researching ex-gay groups and reparative therapists to see if there might be a film in their stories. We’ve always been fans of documentaries about subcultures, so the ex-gay community quickly caught our interest. To be perfectly frank, there was another element at play, the first dozen ex-gay groups we contacted were so hostile to our requests for interviews that we just had to keep pushing and try to understand their point of view. Documentaries are supposed to take viewers places they’ve never been before, and this one really fit the bill.
Throckmorton: What was the biggest surprise to you in your interviewing?
Hussung: There are some real surprises in the film and we don’t want to give them away before people see the documentary. With that said, we were surprised by how many of the ex-gays we spoke to seemed to have experienced some form of abuse as children. What that means, if anything, is open to debate and we explore it in the film. We were also surprised that the distinction between the Christian ex-gay ministries and the supposedly secular reparative therapists crumbled a bit as we delved into the subject matter. The Christian ex-gay groups all seemed to offer some form of therapy, and the reparative therapists were all driven by deeply held religious convictions.
Throckmorton: What in the film do you think will be surprising to critics of the ex-gay movement?
Hussung: Critics will probably be surprised by how open the ex-gays in are film are about what constitutes “success.” With some exceptions, we didn’t interview people who claim to be 100% “cured” of their homosexuality, we met people who talked about lifelong struggles. They don’t seem to be spewing propaganda about 100% change when their own stories involve a fair amount of struggle and failure and they still identity as ex-gay.
Throckmorton: What do you anticipate the reaction to the film will be from those within ex-gay circles?
Hussung: We have no idea. Our obligation was to follow the facts wherever they took us, and we feel as if we’ve done that.
Throckmorton: I am curious about the title of the video – Chasing the devil — it seems like many ex-gays would say they are avoiding the devil. What was behind this choice of title?
Hussung: The title comes from what we heard over and over again at LIFE Ministry in New York City. LIFE believes very strongly in the power of testimony to drive the devil out of homosexuals and they talk about chasing the devil out of people’s rectums and throats. LIFE Ministry doesn’t talk about running away from the devil, the folks there talk about chasing the devil out of their lives.
Throckmorton: That’s curious because I do not think most people would see Life Ministries as representative of the ex-gay world as a whole.
Hussung: They are the only folks we encountered who framed the issue this way, but they are a center piece of the film, so the title made sense.
Throckmorton: What promotion and distribution do you see in the future?
Hussung: We’re going to do select screenings around the country at film festivals and see what the best options are for breaking up the TV rights, dvd rights, and theatrical possibilities. We expect people will be able to see the film before too long.
Thanks for your thoughts on this new project.