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One Nation Under God

Religion and psychiatry have rarely been perceived as sympathetic to the homosexual cause; centering mostly on the bizarre collusion of these two forces in gay "cure" groups, "One Nation Under God" is a fascinating docu hampered by somewhat muddy focus. Its overambitious scope results in occasionally too-familiar footage and uncertain structure. Theatrical future is modest, broadcast potential high.

Religion and psychiatry have rarely been perceived as sympathetic to the homosexual cause; centering mostly on the bizarre collusion of these two forces in gay “cure” groups, “One Nation Under God” is a fascinating docu hampered by somewhat muddy focus. Its overambitious scope results in occasionally too-familiar footage and uncertain structure. Theatrical future is modest, broadcast potential high.

Interview and archival footage are mixed to give an overview of the psychiatric field’s frequent moralizing stand against gay lifestyles.

While the American Psychiatry Assn. deleted homosexuality from its “disorder” list in 1974, that decision hasn’t killed off the existence of organizations like Exodus Intl., which mixes Christian ministry with “therapy” to fix “sexual brokenness.”

Pathetically funny sequences feature “experts” in such orgs discussing the benefits of beauty shop makeovers for repentant lesbians and football games for gay men. One born-again heterosexual takes a more blunt approach to behavior modification: “God hates homsexuals, and so do Christians.”

An articulate male couple of “ex-ex-gays” explain the “brainwashing” techniques of these groups, having once been leaders themselves.

Therapeutic training films from as late as the early ’70s offer one “treatment” after another, including an electroshock “organismic reorientation” method right out of “A Clockwork Orange.” All this material is powerful. By the time Nazi medical experiments are cited, the comparison hardly seems inapt. But in straining to encompass the vast histories of Christianity and modern psychiatry as connected to the subject — plus that of the Gay Liberation Movement –“One Nation” sometimes loses clarity of focus.

Shots of Quayle, Dannemayer and others promoting antigay sentiments, the Stonewall riots and other events cover terrain already exhausted by other dox, and distract from the central point.

Editing could improve matters by either fleshing it out to a less cluttered, comfortable length, or by excising minutes not directly connected to the church/shrink theme. Otherwise, tech qualities are all high-grade.

One Nation Under God

(Docu -- 16mm -- Color/B&W)

  • Production: A 3 Z/Hourglass production. Produced, directed, edited by Teodoro Maniaci, Francine Rzeznik.
  • Crew: Camera (color/B&W/16mm), Mark Voelpel, Maniaci; music, Robert Mitchell; associate producer, Zinka Benton. Reviewed on vidcassette, San Francisco, May 9, 1993. (In the New Festival, N.Y.; San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Intl. Film Festival.) Running time: 83 min.
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