“Love Free Or Die,” directed by Macky Alston (“The Killer Within”) is one of three LGBT-themed films in the U.S. Documentary Competition.
What’s it about? “Love Free Or Die” is about openly gay bishop Gene Robinson whose courageous honesty and catalytic leadership have changed the world.
Director Macky Alston says: “The biggest challenge in making this film was interviewing bishops and other religious leaders who were gay but couldn’t be open about it. As a gay man, it was excruciating to connect with these people (and there are a lot of them) and watch them shut down, withdraw, say that maybe someday they would be able to come out, but no time soon. Meeting so many people who were unable to come out of the closet over the past four years gives me all the more respect for those who have and do. There are some in this film who are coming out publicly for the first time, at potentially great cost to them and the institutions with which they are affiliated. Its a big deal and I see it as a big challenge to steward their courageous decisions as responsibly as I possibly can.
“Some of Bishop Robinson’s final words in the film are: “Who are we to change 2000 years of moral teaching? Well, why not us? And if not us, then who will?” I would like people who see the film to recognize that the world changes when we speak out and stand up for and as LGBT people, and to be moved to do so in a critical election year.
“I am also interested to help Americans recognize the degree to which the fight for LGBT equality is happening in religious language and why. The debate hinges on whether or not American voters consider LGBT people as fully human or less then fully human and many work that out in their faith communities. I firmly believe that in this nation in which 73% of voters identify as Christian and over 90% say they believe in God, we need to figure out how to move people of faith to stand for LGBT equality without having to leave their faith behind. We need to help people recognize that it is the moral thing to do, as was the case with standing for woman’s rights and racial equality.
“The heart-stopping moment for me in this film happened in England. Bishop Robinson was facing daily death threats. He had been banned from preaching In England in the summer of 2008. One bad-ass pastor invited him to preach anyway and Robinson accepted the invitation. The press swarmed. The church was packed. I was up in the balcony of the relatively small church filming when, in the middle of Robinson’s sermon, a burly man wielding something in his hand stood screaming “Repent!” and looked as if he might shoot. For 30 seconds or so, no one knew what was going to happen – if this was the end for the bishop. the congregation started clapping to drown out the threatening man and then broke into an age-old hymn. The bishop looked entirely vulnerable. Finally brave parishioners surrounded the heckler and got him out of the room. That was the first moment I became aware of the cost of taking an historic stand. I recognized that Gene Robinson really might die for what he believed, that he had committed to doing so if he had to, and that it might very well happen on my watch. Hats off, at the end of the day, to Bishop Robinson and the countless others who came before him, flank and follow him. We rarely apprehend just how much these people have put on the line in order for us to enjoy our freedom. It has been a privilege to try to bring that to light.”
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.