"The Believers" chronicles formation of the world's first professional transgender gospel choir, which might set more than a few conservative Christian mindsets reeling. Highlighting individual backstories as well as the group's impressive contemporary, gospel-pop sound, the pic's upbeat, inspirational tenor should play well for select broadcasters after touring gay fests.

Engaging docu “The Believers” chronicles formation of the world’s first professional transgender gospel choir, which might set more than a few conservative Christian mindsets reeling. Highlighting individual backstories as well as the group’s impressive contemporary, gospel-pop sound, the pic’s upbeat, inspirational tenor should play well for select broadcasters after touring gay fests.

Transcendence Gospel Choir chief founder Ashley Moore was once told she was an “abomination before God,” typifying many transgendered persons’ formative church experiences. Nonetheless, she (formerly he) approached the San Francisco bishop of United Church of Christ’s City of Refuge for permission to base a new gospel choir there, talent drawn exclusively from the transgender/transsexual community. Many who join are novice vocalists, and conductor-artistic director Yvonne Evans comments on the challenge of training them, as well as blending a mix of singers who range wildly across usually gender-separated vocal categories. Personalities sketched, from a male-to-female former crack addict and convict to a onetime radical lesbian feminist turned computer-programmer dude, are incredibly diverse, even beyond the sphere of gender-identity complexities. Pic skims over interpersonal problems within choir, keeping the focus on their rousing performances.

The Believers

Documentary

Production

A Campfire Films production. Produced by Nicole Miller, Beth Burkhart. Directed by Todd Holland.

Crew

Camera (color, mini DV), Holland; editor, Julie Griesert; music, Transcendence Gospel Choir. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, June 17, 2006. Running time: 77 MIN.

With

The Transcendence Gospel Choir, Bishop Yvette Flunder, Yvonne Evans, Ashley Moore.
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