Monday, September 5th, 2022

Queerguru’s José Mayorga reviews Wonderfully Made LGBTQ+R(eligion): a new film from Yuval David


This documentary is on the making of a photographic religious art project that rejoices in the pain and suffering of the passion and death of Jesus Christ,  crucifixion and resurrection included, using the traditional Catholic iconography and poses combined with colors of the rainbow and transgender flags.  All involved in the Project speak out from their hearts and souls about their own experiences. 

What is fundamental for the narrative is the participation and points of view of Natalia Imperatori – Lee, professor of Religious Studies,  Father Brian Massingale, Theologian and activist, Father James Martin, S.J. Editor At- Large, American Magazine, and author of the book Building Bridge (more about it here), Marianne Duddy- Burke, Executive Director Dignity USA, Stanley “J:R:” Zerkowski, Executive Director, Fortunate Families, Sister Jeannine Gramick , SL, co-founder and chair, New Ways Ministry, Miguel H. Diaz, diplomat and writer,  Cathy Renna LGBTQ+ Media Consultant, Xorge Olivares, queer Latino columnist, and  Jason Steidl, PHD professor of Religious Studies. They all share with us their stories to reflect their experiences. 

The documentary presents a big amount of archival material. Headlines like Ex Pope Benedict XVI links gay marriage, abortion with the Antichrist in new book    Church leaders blame LGBTQ for Coronavirus pandemic  -Homosexuality is to blame for sexual abuse, not Catholic church claims German cardinal –  confirm that throughout history, the primary source of homophobia and lgbtq+ discrimination has been a religious belief,  and especially. the Catholic church teachings   

The Catholic church has been also a patron of the arts for several centuries, and what comes to my mind are the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Caravaggio and how their creativity and compositions have been replicated up to date; also there have been representations of the crucifixion from Cimabue, Giotto and Titian to Dalí. 

I was raised as a Catholic and went to the Maristas (Children of Mary) school for nine years, so many of the opinions expressed in the film make sense to me and I share them.  Accordingly, I quote:

As Natalia Imperatori-Lee mentions, images have the power to reveal but also the power to conceal. The way our mind works is through images, and because as Catholics we believe in God, we want to have a relationship with him.  She also thinks of the LGBT community as a crucified community and remarks: that they are people too who we put our sins or put our shame on, in an effort to feel better about ourselves. How true is her affirmation? 

Father Massingale refers to his childhood and the white angels he saw at church wondering about the image of God as black and gay; he remarks that Jesus’ harshest words weren’t towards the outcasts but to the self-righteous who took it upon themselves to set the limits of who belonged and who mattered and who counted.  I used to be familiarized with the self-righteous in that context and wanted them away from me. 

Father Martin cites the gospel: Jesus reaches out specifically for the people who are on the margins and adds:  if Jesus were here today in the flesh on the earth, he would be going first to the LGBT people. He also states that historically LGTB people are invisible to the church, and when they are talked about they are in terms of sinfulness or their sexual preferences: Father Martin knows what he is talking about.

The conclusion: The Church doesn’t hesitate in the least to verbally crucify lgbtq+ people on account of their sexuality.  In this context  Catholics interact and relate to each other and attend mass every Sunday; in this background, the documentary and the Art Project have been made.

Mr. Diaz hopes one day we will be able to look at persons for who they are as human beings and not define them by their sexual orientation, So do I. 

I believe that all human beings are wonderfully made by God. Beloved children of God, that is what we are. 

A proliferation of images is required to open the imagination allowing us to see in a new light, but more importantly, to see the neighbor next to us in a new light. The goal of the Art Project is to show Jesus in a way he has never been shown before, a reimagination of Jesus with the help of casting director Amy Gossels.

To bring God out of the closet, to allow different images and experiences to inform our notions of God regardless of the suffering and marginalization we have experienced…  each of us may decide if the point of the project has been achieved. 

Wonderfully Made is the first in a planned documentary series, LGBTQ+R(eligion), in which each episode will focus on a different faith tradition, and it will be interesting to watch other episodes to learn and compare.  It had its World Premiere at OUTONFILM Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ Film Fest

From my point of view this documentary about the Catholic Church is a contribution to the voices of qualified guests that we hear although many more are needed for a change in the institution. About the queer aesthetics …… they allow more creativity  …. the production team should have known to transcend common places.

Directed by Yuval David – Produced by Mark McDermott



Review by José Mayorga , Guatemala, Central America  lawyer and notary public, visual artist, and editor of 
El Azar Cultural, lives and works in Guatemala City. Cinema lover, curious about the possibilities life brings and 
eager to live the experience.

Posted by queerguru  at  17:13

Genres:  documentary

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