Apparently, I'm not the only person who had what Oprah refers to as an "Ah Ha Moment!" when I first saw Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho.
It was 1991, I was a teenager living in rural Virginia, and Idaho came along around the same time that I came out. (And, as an added bonus, I developed a still-lasting crush on Keanu Reeves.)
A modern rendering of Henry IV - replete with a narcoleptic's quest to find and embrace his full self - the film changed the cinematic landscape of indie film . . . sent me on my own "private journey" . . . and spurred an up-and-coming filmmaker, Antonio David Garcia, to travel to Portland, Oregon in seach of Idaho auteur Van Sant.
That journey, and the people he met along the way, debuted last night in Michigan as his own work of cinema: Fences, about how people see, and talk about, gay issues.
As On Top Magazine reported yesterday, during the course of the film, Garcia meets a young man who was made homeless after his evangelical parents kicked him out of their home as a teenager for being gay. Then, he's off to meet with James Dobson and rabid anti-gay "preacher" Fred Phelps, too. And finally, he find his way to that tragic marker of anti-gay hate and violence that still haunts so many: the fence where Matthew Shepard's body was found tied to a post and comatose, after the brutal attack he endured near Laramie, Wyoming.
The crux of the movie, Garcia told reporter Carlos Santoscoy, is to convert those he calls “on the fence.”
“I want [viewers] to question what part of themselves is bigoted towards the gay community and at what level and why," he said.
“It's about individuals that are on the fence and can still go either way. ... There are many people in our country who are on the fence about some of these [gay] issues and they just need to ... question themselves about what is it about the gay community that bothers them, who taught them that, and why it is. If they do that, maybe they'll jump over to our side of the fence.”
Garcia's cinematic journey - from Michigan to Oregon, by way of Idaho and Laramie - is, in the end, about jumping, building and mending the fences that divide our lives and keep us too far apart.
For On Top's complete report on the film, and its debut last night in Flint, Michigan, click here.