Fish Can’t Fly

Tom Murray's new docu, helpfully subtitled "Conversations about GOD and struggling to be gay," tracks several churchgoing gays in their efforts to reconcile their spirituality and sexuality. It soon becomes clear that pic's focus actually is men and women who have gone through the "ex-gay" conversion movement only to become what one lesbian priest characterizes as "Dos Equis," ex-ex-gay.

Tom Murray’s new docu, helpfully subtitled “Conversations about GOD and struggling to be gay,” tracks several churchgoing gays in their efforts to reconcile their spirituality and sexuality. It soon becomes clear that pic’s focus actually is men and women who have gone through the “ex-gay” conversion movement — an intensive process designed to turn homosexuals straight — only to become what one lesbian priest characterizes as “Dos Equis,” ex-ex-gay. A well-constructed expose that slowly discloses its subject with clarity and candor, pic adds an important chapter to the gay docu canon and should be a popular item at gay fests.

Like Murray’s previous “Farm Family,” docu zeroes in on people living outside gay-friendly urban centers. The mainly young men and women who recount their experiences all arrived at the ex-gay movement after exhausting attempts to forge an acceptable sexual identity within a restrictive society and, most particularly, a religious community that expressly excluded gays’ gayness.

Many of Murray’s witnesses had not yet fully embraced their homosexuality and others felt that if they had to choose between sex and God, they really had no choice. All of them sacrificed years of their lives to the program, some even becoming spokespersons for the “conversion” cause on TV talkshows and point/counterpoint-type public debates.

Murray freely cuts back and forth among his cinematic flock as they trace the parallel stages of their journey, from early struggles to live in harmony with their denominational brethren to well-meaning endeavors by parents, pastors and counselors to “cure” them of their homosexuality, to their final shared experience of suicidal depression when exorcism or Bible-spouting deprogramming failed to transform them into “normal” people.

Indeed, one of pic’s most fascinating figures is a white-haired, churchgoing conservative woman whose inability to accept her daughter’s sexual difference contributed to her offspring’s suicide.

All of Murray’s interviewees are marked by past ordeals with ex-gay groups like Live in Action or Exodus including traumatic years within cults where gay behavior was demonized, Calvin Klein clothes were confiscated as promoting “false image” and surveillance was constant.

Tech credits are quite adequate.

Fish Can't Fly

Production: A TJ Murray Videos production. Produced, directed by Murray.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Murray; editors, Gaylon Emerzian, Murray. Reviewed on videocassette at NewFest, New York, June 10, 2005. Running time: 82 MIN.

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