Ridgefield International Film Festival 2020: GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH

In 2016, HB1523 was signed into U.S. law, making it legal to deny housing or even fire someone simply because of who they are on the basis of violations of religious beliefs. With the ink of a pen, religious beliefs became the sole and primary basis for human rights decisions and discrimination. In an instant, legally, the rights of one’s religious basis became more important in the eyes of the law than any other violations of equality. For those in the LGBTQ+ community who have strived for equal rights not just with their neighbor but also through the law, this was a blow that would ripple out amongst the nation, many states in the south following suit.

With new laws being enacted, compounded by the 2016 election results – and the years that would follow – for many, the only thing they could do was to sing and to love. For the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, it was the power of their unified voice they were driven to share and to express. Gay Chorus Deep South, from director and writer David Charles Rodrigues, follows their preparation and eventual tour through the south as they raise their voices and become a forefront for the gay community, bridging the gap between discrimination and acceptance.

Illuminating through song

Utilizing gradient colored title cards, the state of the south is stressed early on. With new laws in place, equality, livelihoods, and progression have been threatened. A few of the men in the San Francisco Chorus are from the south, many growing up under the expectation of devout loyalty to the church and conforming to accepted norms – many leaving to find the equality and freedom of self. Many, such as Jimmy, anxious about what the return home and reunion with parents will be like. For Jimmy, he is tired of fighting for something that he feels will never change.

Ridgefield International Film Festival 2020: GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH
source: Ridgefield International Film Festival

Yet, as these feelings of uncertainty and exhaustion linger, he, along with the chorus, continue on their tour, performing 25 shows in Mississippi,, Tennessee and Alabama, over the course of 7 days. Filled with music throughout, it is not just the voices of hope these men encapsulate, but also the voices of those in the audience commenting on the choir and the divisive climate we all currently live in. Gay Chorus Deep South is smart to include outsiders of the chorus, to give a more wholesome picture into the reception and feelings of those attending the concerts.

Ridgefield International Film Festival 2020: GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH
source: Ridgefield International Film Festival

It is also smart enough to know that hate accompanies the anticipated and subsequent arrival. While the spectrum of acceptance and discrimination varies, the hateful voices that spew from the answering machine and from mouths in physical form continue to hit hard, a knowledge of the discriminatory beliefs given life through words and tonation. Even with Jimmy’s parents, who appear loving and accepting of their son, there is a distance – more so from the father – that this is not the lifestyle he would choose for himself. While there is an acceptance he can do as he wishes, there is also an inability to see beyond the “old times” – excusing himself in one phrase. And while it is not hate, it is the refusal to even view a different perspective or tackle a different understanding that hurts just as much.

Final Thoughts

Gay Chorus Deep South was a film I had been dying to see when it had premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, and I was excited I had another chance to see the film during its run at the Ridgefield International Film Festival. While the film may travel through a discriminatory portion of the United States rampant with hate and discrimination – and where religion is the final say – these men are the inspiration for a nation. They stand at the forefront of equality, not fighting with words and debates, but with song and warmth in their hearts. They are an inspiration to those they stand for and those who have still yet to fight. In the face of hate, they are the shining beacon of love.


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