Thoughts On: Children Of God (2009)
A film from Kareem Mortimer, this is the World Cinema Series’ Bahamian movie.
Children Of God is a pretty good movie with many strengths, but a few damaging weaknesses. It explores the personal inner journey of a gay Bahamian painter as he travels from Nassau (the country’s capital and his home town) to Eleuthera (a small Bahamian island) that runs parallel to an anti-homosexual Christian conservative movement headed by a closeted bisexual pastor and his somewhat reluctant wife. On this journey, our protagonist, Johnny, comes across another closeted homosexual whose family do not, or refuse to, acknowledge who he truly is, leaving this film a dramatic romance.
Just by knowing the premise, it’s clear that this is a film that means to pack an emotional punch whilst providing commentary on a society – an approach/agenda that all too often leads to some grating melodrama. But, for the most part, Children Of God avoids entirely cheesy melodrama – though often boarders such a tone. This comes down to the nature of the script and the quality of acting. Starting with the latter, the acting fluctuates between rather good and pretty bad – but is never truly awful. This has a push-pull relationship with the script as it is structured very well with some complex and articulate ideas within. However, these ideas are often expressed through some on-the-nose exposition, transparent plotting and quite a bit of clunky dialogue. So, as a whole, this is an imperfect movie that, whilst it has some issues, does overcome them to produce a compelling piece of cinema and social commentary.
A quick side-note before we continue, this film has a few formal and narrative links to Moonlight – the use of the ocean for example. The films are quite distinct from one another, but the links wherein are quite obvious. Nonetheless…
As implied, this film is focused on the gay community of The Bahamas, and so aims to depict the struggles that homosexuals endure and the challenges they face. Whilst homosexuality is legal in The Bahamas and has been since 1991, homosexuals have very few rights. In such, gay marriage is illegal – there are cases where private marriages are arranged, but this can be very expensive and may even land pastors in jail. During the mid-2000s, there was a push by the LGTB community to raise awareness of issues such as this as well as the lack of civil rights members have. For example, there are no anti-discrimination laws in place to protect homosexuals in regard to employment or the provision of goods and services. Moreover, as well as not being able to marry, same-sex couples legally cannot adopt children, nor are they allowed to form a family through IVF (in vitro fertilisation) or surrogacy. In raising awareness on such issues, the Bahamian LGTB community only received denial from their government and sparked anti-homosexual rallies, for example, a movement led by a pastor who aimed to oppose civil union through the collection of petitions – a story that has clearly inspired elements of this film.
What is also featured in this narrative that has links to real life in The Bahamas is the violence that homosexuals may be subjected to. In the last 10 years there have been 7 instances where a gay man was murdered in Nassau (possible hate crimes). None of these cases where ever solved by the police – in one instance a murderer turned himself in. The most infamous of these cases involved Troyniko McNeil who, in 2007, murdered Harl Taylor, a handbag designer, was captured, taken to court, but then acquitted. **SPOILERS**. This has clear links to the end of the film where our protagonist is stabbed, adding a tragic implication that his murderer will never be found, or worse, will be let free. At best, it can only be hoped that the killer will hand himself in and be imprisoned. **SPOILERS OVER**.
A film released in 2009, 3 years after Brokeback Mountain, which was banned in The Bahamas, Children Of God was one of the first Bahamian movies to depict homosexuality and explore the issues that homosexuals face. However, despite this feat and the fact that this went on to win 17 awards, this movie didn’t have much of an impact on Bahamian culture as there still seems to be no major governmental change put in place to better support and protect the LGTB community.
The only respite that this narrative then offers is an affirmation that all people are equal – even in the eyes of God. Moreover, Children Of God imbues the concept of an inner journey with purpose – that being an implication that memories and experience can, in themselves, become a form of eternal bliss; a heaven of sorts. And it’s this profound idea that solidifies this narrative as an intricate and compelling commentary on society.
To end, I turn to you. Have you seen this film? What are your thoughts on all that we’ve covered?
Nabat – Preservation
Every Year In Film #10 – Hyde Park Corner
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