The Bible is such a powerful tool. It can lift spirits and encourage hope just as easily as it can incite hatred and destroy lives. "For the Bible Tells Me So" studies the chilling effect misinterpreted Bible verses have brought on the gay and lesbian community, singling out special stories of emotional unrest to explore the changing perspectives of Christianity.
"For the Bible" is a bold documentary that recognizes the vitriolic nature of the argument at hand. Directed by Daniel Karslake, the film steps tentatively, knowing full well what it hopes to communicate is going to upset a horde of believers. Instead of a bracing judgmental attitude, the documentary lunges for the heart, cracking open numerous tales of religious and sexual identity adversity intended to underline the theme of growing tolerance and tangled biblical logic.
The two noteworthy tales come from high-profile sources. The first is politician Richard Gephardt and his daughter Chrissy, a lesbian who spent most of her formative years in heterosexual relationships due to her own sexual confusion and deep-seated fear of public embarrassment. Their tale is one of straightforward acceptance, a rare find, with even Chrissy amazed at how well Richard and his wife took the news, even encouraging help from their daughter during his presidential run in 2004.
Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson and his struggles with faith and sexual preference are also addressed, with the religious leader remarkably open and honest about his life-threatening ordeal. The film also tracks his rise to spiritual leadership and the controversy that rained down on him during the approval process.
Stories aside, "For the Bible" is primarily interested in raising questions about scripture interpretation, isolating common passages from the Bible used to single out homosexuals, revealing, with the help of scholars and religious leaders, the multiple interpretations of these crucial passages, or simply debunking the words outright (welcome is a clarification of the whole Sodom and Gomorrah yarn). It's a persuasive argument, especially when Karslake presents footage of preachers foaming at the mouth, exploiting these blurry holes in the scripture to line their own pockets.
Following this train of thought, a chunk of time is set aside for James Dobson and his "Focus on the Family" crusade against homosexuality. What was once a small-time Evangelical guide has turned into an industry, with Dobson reaping the financial rewards while furthering a message of hate that has reverberated across the country.
The folks at First Run Features have supplied DVD Talk with only a screener of "For the Bible Tells Me So." Video and audio grades provided here might not reflect final product.
"For the Bible Tells Me So" is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio). The picture is culled from a variety of film and video sources, leaving the image spastic in quality. Some moments of the documentary are crisp, with quality colors and great detail. Other sequences can be a pixelated mess, with smeary, disagreeable image quality. The Jekyll and Hyde viewing experience can be exhausting.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is simple and effective for a documentary. Interviews and news footage are blended well, and the score is not intrusive.
The packaging lists "New Interviews with Bishop Gene Robinson and Director Daniel Karslake," however this supplement was not available on the DVD submitted for review.
While cyclical at times, "For the Bible Tells Me So" is an informative, heartbreaking documentary about intolerance and manipulation, sadly and assuredly never to be seen by the people who need this info the most.
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