The axe falls on Ben Lyons… oh, and Ben Mankiewicz, too, actually; Chicago Tribune writer Michael Phillips and the New York Times‘ A.O. Scott will take over a re-revamped At the Movies when its new season bows on September 5.
Taking its name from “soul-force,” the equal-rights advocacy group which takes its name from the application of Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of relentless nonviolent resistance, the documentary SoleJourney takes a look at the LGBT community’s efforts to simultaneously call attention to and undermine religious and political oppression.
Co-directed by Kate Burns and Sheila Schroeder, SoulJourney begins by explaining the dangerous political policy making and anti-LGBT rhetoric of Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family, the well-funded, well-connected evangelical Christian organization known for their frequent, scolding outspokenness regarding the lifestyles of gays and lesbians, as well as attempts to curb dedicated civil rights expansion. The movie then follows the small group of dedicated and courageous individuals who make up the Soulforce movement — including co-founder Dr. Mel White and civil rights attorney Dani Newsum — as they take action against this colossal adversary with a six-day, 65-mile march from the Colorado State Capitol in Denver to the Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs.
Given the fairly ingrained nature of an older generation’s collective mindset as well as the subjectivity of this work, it’s doubtful whether SoulJourney can in fact serve to persuade any minds to its cause. It has brevity on its side, though. The fact that the movie runs only an hour may be a strike against it in some quarters, but it actually shows that Burns and Schroeder didn’t feel it necessary to load up on too much emotional history. They sketch out a history of recent advances (the fact that the Supreme Court struck down all state anti-sodomy laws in only 2003, for instance), then simply juxtapose this with bits of footage from Dobson speeches and appearances, where he inveighs against gays by bizarrely citing air-quote research that “shows they have 300 to 1,000 sexual partners in a lifetime.” The rest of the movie is peppered with talking head interview footage and stirring personal testimonials, including from the aforementioned White, who talks about undergoing electro-shock therapy and exorcisms in an effort to change his sexual inclinations. Fair-use clips from CNN and other news programs do a good job of highlighting the commonalities in Soulforce’s fight against institutional oppression.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, SoulJourney comes to DVD in 1.33 full screen. Its bonus features are anchored by three trailers for First Run home video releases and an eight-minute short film, Marriage Equality Action, which makes liberal use of affiliate Fox News footage in highlighting the story of a Colorado marriage license story. There’s also a text-based, scrollable directors’ statement, as well as an electronic press kit and list of other educational resources. For more information, click here; to purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B (Movie) B- (Disc)
E-prepping for an interview with Radha Mitchell later in the week, I twice zapped through the trailer for this fall’s Surrogates, Jonathan Mostow’s forthcoming film in which Mitchell co-stars opposite Bruce Willis, Bruce Willis’ hilarious hairpiece, Ving Rhames and Rosamund Pike. A futuristic thriller/murder mystery that sounds equal parts Total Recall, I, Robot and Minority Report, it features some intriguing looking grand-scale mayhem (I guess Mostow’s destruction of vast swatches of city streets in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was good for something after all), as well as a bad-ass collective outdoors collapse of a bunch of folks. But trailers for The Happening had a shot like that, too, didn’t they? Errr… nevermind.
There seems to be one fundamental flaw, however, to the movie’s premise — or at least something unaddressed in the trailer: if people were living almost exclusively through surrogates, wouldn’t society deteriorate into a carnival of excess, resembling nothing so much as a (further) engorged Bret Easton Ellis novel, instead of there not being any murders for 10 or 15 years? Right, I get that the killing, sexual acting out and other crime wouldn’t initially be inflicted on the actual human host bodies, but attendant property damage and the like would all be rampant, no? And wouldn’t that eventually spill over, revenge-style, into private residences? Just trying to peg where human nature fits into all of this.