Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"We're All Angels" -- a Jason and De Marco documentary film

Jason and De Marco (website) have made themselves Christian rock pop stars, sort of like a “boy band” duet – and they are also gay partners. They chronicle their story in the new documentary “We’re All Angels”, directed by Robert Nunez, from Telekinetic films, and runs 87 minutes. No rating is given; except for a very few words in some dialogue, it would probably qualify for PG-13. This is a very gentle documentary. It has been airing on Showtime recently. I mentioned this film in advance and published the link to Showtime on this blog on June 18, 2007 (see the archive links to the left on this page). We could ponder the word "angel" as meaning "messenger" and only then perhaps "supernatural being."

This movie seems more focused than another “gay Christian” film, “Camp Out” (see this blog, Dec. 28, 2007), or even than the acclaimed “For the Bible Tells Me So” (Oct. 14, 2007 on this blog). That’s because Jason Warner and De Marco let us into their lives with somewhat of a three-part storytelling structure, which is part of good documentary filmmaking,

The first part of the film does take on “religion and homosexuality.” A fundamentalist minister is quoted as showing that God accepts those who repent. But then some hateful demonstrations, with words that I can’t reproduce in a commercially exposed blog, follow (again, taking the movie towards R territory). Jason tells of his growing up in a Pentecostal background and his attending an evangelical college, Lee, in Tennessee. At one point, the couple comes to town at the college, and is not allowed to perform on campus, but draws quite a crowd just off campus. In the later part of the film, his mother Karen, and the mother of one of their friends take on what it is like for parents, especially with an evangelical background. (I think with a little more time, the film could have mentioned the group Evangelicals Concerned, which I interacted with in Dallas in the 1980s.) They talk about the usual religious absolutism, and the question of choice or immutability. They barely touch on their own psychological investment, which may include the need to see their children demonstrate biological family loyalty as part of their own marital experience, or some idea that the sexual restrictions of the supposed evangelical moral code make things fairer among members of any family.

Toward the end of the film, Jason and DeMarco do a concert at a White Party (or circuit party) at Palm Springs, bringing “church” to a secular partying crowd not realizing it. (Remember TLA’s film “Circuit” from 2001.) I often think there is a lot of classical dance music that could be played in a disco without the patrons realizing it (how about the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh). There is some other concert spectacle, with environs: outside the venue in Houston, TX there is a curious shot of a couple purplish d grackles (perhaps boat-tailed). I saw them perform at Fredericksburg VA Metropolitan Community Church in August 2006.

But it is the relationship between Jason and De Marco that forms the strong middle of the film. There is some conversation that could almost have come from a Ninth Street Center talk group in the 1970s about “the polarities” (from the writings of Paul Rosenfels). Jason uses much earthier, common vocabulary to describe the perspective of the relationship. As to “masculine” and “feminine” (or for that matter, “objective” and “subjective”) I suppose I should ask the visitor to watch the film and make up his or her own mind.

But Jason later says that if he does the dishes or washes De Marco’s clothes, De Marco takes that as love. At the Ninth Street Center back in the 1970s, I was encouraged to explore my “femininity” by washing the dishes after the Saturday night potlucks (complete with Paul Rosenfels’s chicken aspic – a great dish to show in another film someday, or to prepare on PBS). Jason celebrates the domestic partnership papers (the film doesn’t say if they got married after June 17 in California, where they live – the film probably was made before the California Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage); De Marco, not so much.

Here, let me add that I lived in Minneapolis myself in 1997-2003, where I met Jason Warner at All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church (AGCMCC) where they sometimes performed. I believe Jason grew up (at least partly) in this area, but I am not sure of the exact facts, and imdb doesn’t show them yet. I spoke about Rosenfels, the Ninth Street Center, and the polarities quite a bit around AGCMCC and elsewhere during those six eventful years, and Jason (as would many others there) would certainly know about them as an intellectual construct upon which to build a story in film. I recall Jason’s dancing at the Saloon, with great form and liveliness – at the locally famous and usually packed Hennepin Avenue club with the three “show stages” spread out on the dance floor (I don’t know if it is still set up that way). No matter, other celebrities (whom I won’t name here) came and danced at The Saloon, and even more so at the Gay Nineties down the street. Because of its physical setup, by the way, the Saloon would have made the perfect dance floor for up close-up 2.35:1 filmmaking (with all the necessary signed releases); the people there really dance. When Minneapolis had a 1 AM last call (until 2003), it could be particularly lively. (There is a similar Saloon in Kansas City, but I don’t know if it is the same ownership.)

The couple actually represents a cross section of cultures: southern and Midwestern (Jason) and sunny California (De Marco). Perhaps the couple will get invited to sing on "Ellen" or "Oprah" some day.


R said...

Dear Bill,
Thank you for the very thoughtful review of my documentary. I appreciate your recognition of the structure and the emotion of the film. To be compared to "Camp Out" and "For The Bible Tells Me So" is high praise.
I spent three years of my life on this film and your review makes me feel like it was time well spent. I was thrilled when we made it to Showtime (the film was independently produced) so that we could reach younger gays who may be struggling with their sexuality.
Thank you, also, for sharing your personal stories in the review. I really wanted this film to involve every audience member and provoke thoughts about spirituality, romance and family in our own lives.
You have made me a very happy director!

Robert Nunez

P.S. Jason and deMarco just announced a few weeks back that they are getting married. I couldn't be more happy for them!

Bill Boushka said...

I don't know what the ownership arrangements are with Showtime, but I would hope that this film could get into the festival circuit and maybe find a regular corporate distributor for a theatrical release, like in Landmark or similar "art movie" theater chains.