HPPUB MOVIE REVIEWs of Point of View documentaries: Family Fundamentals, Flag Wars  


Title:  POV: Behind the Lens: Family Fundamentals

Release Date:  2002

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: 75 min

MPAA Rating: sug PG-13

Distributor and Production Company:  PBS POV

Director; Arthur Dong



Technical: Video for PBS

Relevance to HPPUB site: homosexuality, family values, religion, property values


Point of View (POV): Behind the Lens: Family Fundamentals (2002, PBS, dir. Arthur Dong, 90 min, sug PG-13) is a POV film for PBS’s 2005 GLBT month (June). The film examines three Christian or religious families that oppose the gay and lesbian activism of their children. Beyond the obvious platitudes about religion, being born again or saved, and so on, one asks, “Why?”  What is the problem?

I think that for many people in a conservative (often religious) family environment, validation of the loyalty of all family members to the biological family and its lineage becomes a major psychological goal. Raising children and caring for the elderly is hard, so any cultural claims that make this harder would be understandably unwelcome, even if such a view seems whiney to one with a rationalist or individualist set of personal values. Certainly, religious family values are very good at taking care of people when they are down. Individualistic values might be viewed as contemptuous of those who are personally less competitive and who depend on family solidarity (and family responsibility from everyone, which is easier if everyone procreates) in order to find meaning. So one person’s freedom becomes a family member’s insult.

But there is also the religious insistence on absolute and simple (and scriptural) definitions of right and wrong, a viewpoint that does not welcome the Socratic examination that I enjoy. Many people with a “family centered” or religious motives feel that it is important to convince every other specific person of the rightness of one’s life. By contrast, I only ask for the freedom to examine all viewpoints publicly and let the reader or viewer have the freedom to do his own thinking; I don’t require specific results or loyalty from specific people to feel whole. The truth is out there.

The show presents interesting case histories. Brett comes from a Mormon family, and served in the Air Force but was discharged under the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, losing his Veteran’s benefits and security clearance but getting an honorable discharge. He receives dozens of religious letters from his family, concerned largely with a religious view of right and wrong and emphasizing eternal life and eternal marriage. The film shows a Mormon wedding (of Brett’s grandmother) and even a haircut.

Brian is Bob Dornan’s son. Dornan was once one of the most vehemently anti-gay Congressmen. In one scene Dornan is addressing Congress and claims that “gay” is a public relations word for a “medical condition” or a “mortal sin.”

The Mormon family told Mr. Dong that it would talk to the director only if he would ake a film condemning homosexuality, rather than an objective documentary, which this film certainly is. Later, the film shows a telephone conversation by Brett, in which he is asked by his family to stop participation in the documentary, to save his family from the embarrassment or shame inflicted by other people’s opinions (in the family’s community, however irrational). This one sequence shows particularly well that families sometimes play off the gay person’s self-expression with the supposed motive to be loyal to blood family first. This can become significant later in life if the gay person needed to become an eldercare caregiver (all the more if the child had been rejected, disowned, or was an only child without descendants). One is also left with the idea that these families feel hurt by the idea of a potential male heir not giving them grandchildren to expand the family. Parents may also feel that because they “sacrificed” for their children, they are entitled to absolute cultural or religious family loyalty from their offspring, as a justification for the way the parents have lived their lives without the opportunities for more individualistic lives experienced by their children.

The film also documents a conference (sponsored by Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs) purporting to prevent homosexuality from being made attractive to youth. But if it is inherently that attractive that it needs to be prevented, what is wrong with the heterosexual family in the first place then.


Point of View (POV): Behind the Lens: Flag Wars (2003, PBS, dir. Linda Goode Byrant and Laura Poitras) explores urban gentrification of previously blighted (often African American) neighborhoods in San Francisco, New York City’s Harlem, and especially Columbus, Ohio, and especially by (white) GLBT home buyers.



Related reviews: Major GLBT films, Older GLBT films


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Email me at Jboushka@aol.com