Tribeca Film Festival 2017 Interviews: Love the Sinner
Hey Splashers (yes, that’s my nickname for you), you may have seen my recent round-up of the Shorts for this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Well, one that I found very moving was Love the Sinner. It was a great conversation piece, and I was fortunate enough to get to speak with director/producer Jessica Devaney, and producer Patricia Benabe.
Love the Sinner is a personal documentary essay exploring the connection between
Christianity and homophobia in the wake of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Queer filmmaker Jessica Devaney grew up deeply immersed in Evangelical Christianity
in Florida. After breaking with her youth as a nationally recognized activist and leader
among conservative Evangelicals, Jessica left Florida and didn’t look back. She built a life
that took her as far away from home as possible. Over time, her daily life became a
progressive echo chamber.
The mass shooting at Pulse was a wake up call. By avoiding hard conversations with church
leadership, had she missed opportunities to challenge homophobia?
Love the Sinner probes our responsibility to face bias in our communities and push for
dignity and equality for all.
Tyler Richardson: When did you begin working on Love the Sinner? Is there a message you want viewers to take away?
Jessica Devaney: I began working on it the week after the Pulse massacre. I wanted to tell a story different than what was being shared by the mainstream media.
TR: Are there any particular questions you would like to the audience to ask of themselves?
JD: Questions of ourselves. We are in living in a polarized and divided political climate. What are our responsibilities? Whether LGTBQ or racism.
TR: Do you have plans for distribution, such as a wide release planned?
JD: Right now distribution hasn’t been finalized but we’re hoping for wide release. We would like to undergo a targeted screening tour, like an evangelical tour.
TR: Have you screened this for anyone yet? Or, are the critics and audiences seeing it at Tribeca Film Festival 2017 the first?
JD: I went to Florida a month and a half ago. The film has been shown to Pastor Joel and his team from the documentary. We will be back for a public screening in my hometown on May 18th.
TR: Did you have contact with a large number of survivors from the Pulse tragedy?
JD: Patricia had a lot of early conversations with the Pulse survivors. We wanted to take a look at the fabric of the elements that created the shooting.
TR: Have you spoken with a lot of evangelical groups to see how they respond to your movie?
JD: I have been in communication with a small network of pastors to arrange for their congregations to see the film. I would like it to be shown to those that need it, as opposed to the allies of our frame of mind.
TR: Were you at all surprised by the people of your hometown when you returned for the documentary?
JD: I went back to the church I grew up in. The world has changed a lot in 15-20 years. I didn’t expect it to sound exactly the same, and expected more of a shift but was surprised to see Brent leading it the same.
TR: How difficult is fundraising with a project like this? I have an idea of how difficult it can be to raise money for a film, but what was your experience like?
JD: Fundraising is challenging but there is a shift in short films like these, because of the current political atmosphere. Swift turnaround, and early support were great. And, Women at Sundance were great, The Chicken & Egg as well, and The Fledgling Fund just started a short documentary fund.
TR: Do any of the church congregation you’ve encountered feel like they’re behind the times in terms of accepting all lifestyles?
JD: The church measures itself on a different scale of progress. They don’t aim to be a part of the world. Brent is a good person, he doesn’t see his thinking about queer people as violent. That kind of exclusion causes pain in a community. He’s open to having a conversation. He really does believe love the sinner, hate the sin.
TR: What would you like people to learn about churches like the one you grew up in?
JD: I want to draw a distinction between groups like the West Borough Baptist Church, and where I grew up. I knew a lot of ministers and pastors who came from this environment. I believe there is hope, and a lot of these people can change.
TR: Patricia, Jennifer stated that you dealt with a lot of the survivors of the Pulse shooting. How did you end up getting in touch with Norman Casiano-Mojica, is a survivor of the June 12, 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando?
Patricia Benabe: Getting in touch with Norman was interesting. I was going through the names of the victims, and noticed a victim shared my last name. I reached out to my cousin, and eventually got in touch with Norman. The relatives of the first person weren’t ready to speak with the press.
TR: Patricia, did you walk through the Pulse nightclub with any of the survivors?
PB: I walked through, the club was closed, but I saw the memorial with everyone paying their respects. I wanted to avoid re-traumatization by going through the club with a survivor. We had to be very careful.
Well, I hope that you all get out and see the last showings of Love the Sinner at the Tribeca Film Festival: