At first glance, For the Bible Tells Me So comes across as a fairly conservative film. Technically and aesthetically speaking, there are no surprises: interviews, found footage, a cute short cartoon, and familiar traditional documentary techniques are mixed with a certain amount of predictability and sentimental cheesiness. But is cinematic form all that defines whether a movie is conventional or groundbreaking? In terms of content, Daniel G. Karslake's first feature is anything but unchallenging.
In fact, no better word than challenge comes to mind when thinking about For the Bible Tells Me So. First, there's the film's questioning of the widely held belief that spirituality and same-sex attraction are mutually exclusive. The many different acclaimed and respected theologians featured in the documentary make it clear that popular literalist interpretations of the Bible, according to which homosexuality is an abomination, show complete disregard for the historical and social context in which it was written (a time when the concept of homosexuality wasn't even existent).
Through interviews with figures such as Rev. Peter Gomes, Rev. Irene Monroe, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the film makes it clear that religion and the church are two different things and that scripture is used to promote and justify hatred toward homosexuality in the same way that it can be used to defend racism and sexism.
In the process of critiquing church authority, For the Bible Tells Me suggests that one revisit one's system of belief. This suggestion extends from and connects to the families interviewed in the movie. Focusing on five religious couples who grew up being told that homosexuality is a sin but who later discovered that their children are gay, Karslake portrays people struggling between their love for their offspring and their idea of faith as a guide to truth in life. Some parents get involved in fighting prejudice, while others discover that they can at least try to understand their children. Because Karslake approaches all of his interview subjects with respect and affection, For the Bible Tells Me So's plea for tolerance is almost omnipotent. (Maria Komodore)
FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO
Opens Fri/12 in Bay Area theaters