With the rise of right wing politics and discriminatory anti-LGBTQ laws across the southern states of America in recent years, it is no surprise that groups have decided to take action to try to counter the hate. Following the journey of conductor Tim Seelig who brought together a group of gay performers from all walks of life to perform across the Deep South. Director David Charles takes us along on this journey that sees members of the group face old demons and deal with troubled pasts. The film has already been shown across America and is soon to be premiering in Belgrade, Serbia at the international queer film gala, Merlinka Festival.
Filmed shortly after the 2016 election which saw Donald Trump become president, Gay Chorus Deep South serves as a reminder of the pain experienced by LGBTQ members across the south of the United States while also shining a light on the hope we have for the future. With a choir of over 200 members they have stories of coming out, being turned away from their jobs and having to move state to escape prejudice. Travelling across the country to beautiful venues singing beautiful songs, the choir looks to create positive change. Without changing how organised religion views the LGBTQ community there can’t be a positive affect to the legislations to states like Mississippi.
When conductor Tim Seelig speaks about his life and experiences he speaks with so much kindness. He is aware of the task he is taking on and that to make an impact he needs to go through the church. He says “In the South, you don’t get to make any kind of effective change without going through the church. For me when I say ‘I once was lost but now I’m found’ was the day I came out” Being brought up in this religious environment he knows the importance it has to a lot of people in these states and his belief that you can make positive change through choir music is refreshing.
The documentary is beautifully shot, really taking advantage of how beautiful the venues the choir perform in are. It is able to take the interviews with members of the group, visitors of the shows as well as from other groups and protestors. The lives of these people are fleshed out so we understand their history and the path that brought them here. We see the tears behind the scenes and the joy that singing brings. At times it can be a tough watch but feels so vital to be seen.
Joined throughout their tour by a number of performers, it is this collection of incredible people who really bring to life this documentary. From a transitioning performer who uses their style to make the audience laugh, to a gay man coming to terms with his upcoming surgery for cancer. This group feels like a family and it is felt between every member and those whose lives they touch. Their songs vary from church classics to more contemporary ballads which are able to open up a connection.
Gay Chorus Deep South is one of the most timely feeling documentaries in recent years. They as a group are attempting many would consider life threatening and dangerous but they do so with smiling faces and hope in their hearts. The struggle between religion and queerness has always been present but with documentaries like this providing positive and enriching experiences, we can move closer towards global acceptance that can see us all come together. A powerful film that is sure to touch many hearts.