Docfest: Chasing The Devil Review

chasingthedevil

The film Chasing The Devil (2008), chronicles the “ex-gay” movement, which claims that people can change their sexual orientation through counseling and faith. While the documentary attempts to claim that it is only attempting to present the facts, “We’ve done our best to honestly present the stories we found during the course of or filming” (Hussung), the facts generally tend to lean in the direction of the left. That is to say I went into the film with notion that the entire movement was ridiculous, and left with my views more or less reaffirmed.

            With the question of gay marriage forever lingering unanswered in the air, the issue of whether a person can truly change his or her sexual desires seems particularly relevant. While some ministers of the ex-gay movement claim that they have transformed their homosexual inclinations into heterosexual longings (one woman going as far as to claim that she was possessed by a demon) being “straight” still remains a life-long struggle. As producer Bill Hussung stated, “We didn’t interview people who claimed to be 100% cured of their homosexuality” (Throckmorton). These repressed desires and the self-loathing associated with being attracted to someone of the same sex, leads to further complications and issues in the lives of many who attempt to become ex-gays.

            The film also briefly addresses the issue of biology and homosexuality, or whether people are just born gay. Leaders of the ex-gay movement assert that it’s “impossible” for people to be born gay, and it is in reality just a result of environmental factors. This perception that homosexuality can be solely attributed to environmental factors is the entire basis for the ex-gay movement; biological “peculiarities” cannot be changed but environmental ones can be “fixed.”

            While I found the subject matter of the film highly relevant in today’s society, the cinematography came across as amateur at times (I’m referring to amateur in the shaky camera sense versus the ‘unspoiled’ sense we addressed in class). The cameraman also employed an odd use close ups in some of the interviews, such as zooming in on one man’s crotch when he was speaking… These attempts at artistic filmmaking techniques fell flat, and hindered the film.

            Chasing the Devil questions a disturbing movement in America, and the effects it has on the people involved. While some appear able to harness their desires and feelings, others take a different path to become “ex-gay survivors.” Ultimately compassion and acceptance emerge as the themes the filmmakers urge us to adopt, rather than hatefulness and intolerance.

– Emily Ballaine

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