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(The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival ran April 24-May 5 in New York City. HtN had writers Matt Delman, Chris Reed and Mike S. Ryan at the fest to get ready for our always deep coverage! Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)

Winner of the Documentary Audience Award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, director David Charles Rodrigues’s inspiring Gay Chorus Deep South follows the marvelous San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus – accompanied by the equally amazing Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir – as they tour the states of the American South with the most repressive anti-gay cultures (and most recent anti-LGBTQ legislation) to promote a message of unity and love. The “Lavender Pen” tour (the official name) is a success not only artistically, but also because it reveals that behaving like a decent human being can generate an equal response. That seems obvious, but still comes as a surprise in these fractured times.

Many of these men come from these same states, themselves, so it’s a fraught homecoming for some, though surprises await those who think the receptions will all be negative. On the contrary, though haters gotta hate, love sometimes begets love, and quite a few ostensibly conservative Christian communities open their arms (and occasionally their churches) in welcome. In a beautiful scene, one singer recounts his interaction with an older woman who tells him, “It’s not important who you love, but that you love.” If such a statement brings tears to your eyes, then you will love this film.

I certainly did, moved by the courage of the tour’s participants as they confront their deepest fears. Beyond their bold outreach and compassion for those who might hate them, they also make very fine music, and the movie is as much a testament to their craft and talent as to their bravery. Beautifully photographed and masterfully assembled, Gay Chorus Deep South is the documentary we all need to realize that all is not yet lost in Trump’s America. With good folks like this, from both sides of the aisle, there is hope for humanity yet.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is: lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; editor at Film Festival Today; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the founders and former cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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