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What is a Sundance Film? This was one of the writing prompts for an article review I wrote for a class in conjunction with the Sundance Film Festival. I said it was simply the absence of a studio backed film – independent, sans Hollywood. This could be a wide range in styles carrying an even larger number of themes. I recently watched two movies that spanned this spectrum.

Waitress, with Kerri Russell is about a woman trapped in an horrible marriage who finds solace in making crazy pie creations. Enter unwanted pregnancy and the new cute town doctor, paired with hilarious dialogue and pie recipes along with real questions about happiness and responsibility. I walked out with a new favorite. Thanks to a good reaction plus a few newspaper articles in town, it’s becoming a festival favorite, and has been picked up for 3 million (meaning it has studio backing and will get distributed to theaters and DVD).

There are a few films at Sundance that deal with homosexuality and Christianity, one of which is the documentary For the Bible Tells me So. It deals with the way the American church is treating homosexuals. Whew – hot topic. Watch out, the water’s just getting warm.

Another film that is getting a fair bit of attention (and previously reviewed here on Beliefnet) is Save Me, which also deals with homosexuality and the church. Chad Allen (who recently played Steve Saint in End of the Spear) plays a gay drug addict who hits rock bottom, finds healing at a Christian gay rehabilitation retreat center, and falls for one of the guys at the center.

The cool thing about getting into a premiere at a place like Sundance is the dialogue since most of the cast and crew are there. The opening comments by the director of Save Me were poignant: “This is not a gay movie. This is not a Christian movie. This is an American movie.” While the film itself was about average, it is definitely worth seeing for a timely message, which was summed up by an audience member during the post-movie Q&A: “This is a movie about love!”

This movie was written and produced by both gay and pro-gay filmmakers, but the irony is it’s not for the gay community – its for the rest of the country, especially those who would condemn and judge homosexuals.

Judith Light, plays the stanch conservative Christian who seeks to ‘cure’ these men of homosexuality, and really more selfishly, find her own redemption and make peace with God in the process. Instead she is shown love by those she condemns. It portrays all sides in a real way without going over the top. I felt I could walk away from this film and enter into dialogue – it’s building bridges.

Yet honestly, I winced and wrestled during this movie. Am I endorsing something I don’t agree with by being here? How do I feel about this issue? But I needed to be there, and glad I was. I walked up and talked to three of the producers afterwards and told them that I was a theology student here to study spiritual themes in films. We said we appreciated the film, but especially their dialogue and approach with it afterwards. They responded with authentic gratitude. I left blown away with the irony of the gay community producing a film with such real, but respectful, portrayal of how they are treated by the church.

– Kristin Myers

Kristin Myers comes from Southern California, is a Fuller Theology student and is currently participating in the WindRider Film Forum

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