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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Family Fundamentals (review)

Documentarian Arthur Dong avoids demonizing the conservative Christians at the center of Family Fundamentals, his heartbreaking look at the religious right and their gay children. But those who disagree with their views on human sexuality won’t be able to help but scoff when one of them asserts that there are no gays, just “heterosexuals with identity problems,” and when another proclaims that the Bible isn’t open to interpretation even though she clearly isn’t reading the Old Testament in the original and untranslated Hebrew or Greek. And those same viewers won’t be able to dismiss the thought that these ultraconservative parents are giving themselves the short end of the stick, missing out on a genuine, loving relationship with their adult children. The parents blithely talk of sin and salvation, the matter out of their hands and into God’s, while their grown-up kids lament the loss of warm family life with Mom and Dad, regret the disappointment they’ve caused their parents, and seem to understand best what their parents have lost in turning their backs on their children. Dong doesn’t demonize the conservative Christians he talks to, but he doesn’t have to: nothing they say can counter the sight of one of their children crying as he says “I feel like I’m hated.” This is powerful, angry-making stuff.


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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