REVIEWS YOU CAN USE: Over the last year, Kareem Mortimer’s Children of God has played at the London, Melbourne, and Torino queer film festivals and most recently at Outfest. But is Mortimer’s portrait of homophobia in the Bahamas any good?
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: Lena is the devoted wife of a secretly gay homophobic preacher. Johnny Roberts is a gay white artist struggling to express himself in Bermuda’s homophobic environment. Romeo is a young black native pressured by his traditional family to settle down. All three visit the beautiful island of Eleuthera in an attempt to discover the price of living true to themselves.
WHO’S IN IT?: A bunch of beautiful people. Romeo (Stephen Williams) is a muscular beauty who comes on strong but secretly fears responsibility. Bearded twink (Johnny Ferro) plays the brooding island boyfriend you wish you’d met in art class. All of the supporting characters play their one-dimensional roles moderately well, but the best of the three main actors is Lena (Margaret Kemp) who plays a confident preacher’s wife torn between her political convictions and her fracturing family life.
IS IT ANY GOOD?: Yes, insofar as it offers a sophisticated handling of homosexuality and religion. Lena suspects her husband has had a gay affair, but feels pressured to preach against homosexuals and maintain devotion despite her doubts. Johnny’s tormentors listen to hate radio as a way to deal with their own powerlessness and Johnny’s response to them may only fan the flames. The film doesn’t provide easy answers to the characters’ dilemmas and lets their individual struggles play out dramatically in scenes of high tension among the conservative Caribbean community.
WHAT’S BAD ABOUT IT?: The film combines several all-too-familiar art house tropes: young artist discovers himself on a journey, closeted guy has to choose, homophobe secretly likes dudes, abused spouse gets tempted by Mr. Fabulous. Then there’s the occasionally heavy-handed and clunky dialogue. Though you’ve seen these same issues in other gay films, they still offer up some surprises (especially at the end).
FUN FACT: Director and writer Kareem Mortimer based his characters on amalgams of real-life Carribeans and wrote the film in response to the 2008 murders of five men suspected of being gay in the Bahamas. Mortimer compliments the gorgeous camera work with music from local musicians, saturating viewers in an authentic island look and sound.
RATING: Three out of five sea urchins: Children of God provides a worthwhile cross-section of modern gay Bohemian conflict amid a glorious setting. While some of its topics and characters come off flat, their handling will definitely spark good conversation.