*** out of ****
If someone were to ask you where in the Bible is a reference to homosexuality, could you tell him or her? If someone were to attempt to persuade you the Bible claims outright that homosexuality is wrong, could you defend yourself?
Ky Dickens’ didactic “Fish out of Water” (2009) is an engaging resource for those that cannot defend themselves against those who take it upon themselves to be “Biblical spokespeople.” The part-2D animated film, part-documentary delineates the “grossly misinterpreted” Biblical passages used ritually to condemn those who identify as GLBTQ, including the stories of Adam and Eve and Sodom and Gomorrah, the passages of Leviticus, and the writings of Paul in Romans, Corinthians, and Timothy.
Although it plays like a History Channel program, with its assemblage of found footage, including photographs, statistics, newspaper headlines, instructional videos, amateur footage, old films, and art, “Fish out of Water” uses these tools to its advantage in involving the spectator, who probably identifies as GLBTQ. Hopefully eventually, this adorable film can find its rightful audience in the mainstream, which seems to be Dickens’ intention all along – to communicate this information through the widely disseminated medium of film.
Dickens claims rightfully that religious conviction plays a huge role in modern discrimination against gay marriage rights, including the institution of Prop 8 in California. Moreover, Dickens asserts rightfully (again) that many of these religious beliefs are often personally un-researched and founded in hearsay. Her film’s goals, then, are threefold: 1.) To “out,” so to speak, these popular convictions based on hearsay; 2.) To prove how the Bible – being a book – cannot be interpreted without its cultural, social, and linguistic contexts; and 3.) To change people’s minds by informing the mainstream why they have been wrong to discriminate against GLBTQ people.
Although Dickens’ film is multifaceted and multifarious in its uses of the film medium (documentary, animation, etc.), I see something in her film that is rare in others: It is structured like an essay. This aspect is important because it assigns her narration a level of intelligence that makes her statements hard to brush off (not to mention the intelligence of the educated theologians she calls on to teach these commonly misinterpreted Biblical passages to viewers.) Dickens delineates her film with theses, “first”-s, “next”-s, etc. A Vanderbilt alumnus, indeed, as Dickens notes in the exposition of her film.
Besides theologians, Dickens films interviews with staunch opponents of GLBTQ rights, such as Fred Phelps, famously of the Westboro Baptist Church (a.k.a. God Hates Fags). Although he speaks his mind, often conflating members of the groups he opposes, including Jews and gays, Phelps’ outrageous statements end up being completely laughable, surrounded as they are among a sea of educated responses. Oddly enough, they might be the (very ironic) comic relief of the film.
Dickens is only a first-time filmmaker, but her work is compelling and likable. Many who identify as GLBTQ – myself included – would have begged for a resource such as this one prior to this film’s creation. Well, here it is: cute on the outside, subversive on the inside. Dickens might have felt like a “fish out of water,” referring to the film’s title, but she brings everyone in right with her.
*As seen in the April 2010 issue of "Out & About" newspaper. To access it, click here.*
March 28, 2010
*** out of ****