Retired gay Bishop Gene Robinson, right, with his partner, Mark, fought to be recognized by the Episcopalian church. Credit: Gillian Laub
Sundance is in full swing, meaning now’s a good time to remember the number of films that once used to never escape it. Along with the big buys and breathlessly praised alleged masterworks, there will be many titles that won’t become the next big thing. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it.
But thanks to new media, films being banished into oblivion is no longer the only other option. Thanks to online services — like Distrify, the service that allows you to stream or buy physical copies of certain films — anybody with an Internet connection can catch up on deserving titles that might not have powerfully rocked worlds. Among those would be “Love Free or Die.” An alum of Sundance 2012, Macky Alston’s documentary looks at Gene Robinson, a warm, charming, well-spoken Episcopalian bishop from New Hampshire. Only problem: He’s openly gay.
Historically, his ouster would have been the end of the story. But this is the 21st century, and while Robinson still has to fight to receive full acceptance from the church of which he’s been a passionate member, his odds are pretty good. “Love Free or Die” follows his tussles with the powers that be, not only for his rights but for any LGBT member hoping to take on key roles in the church. Spoiler alert (which can be uncovered by doing minimal Googling or being aware of major LGBT rights milestones): He won, although he has since retired.
You can watch the entire film below:
Admittedly the film is a touch one-sided — not that it’s not on the side of angels, as it were, but that this issue remains profoundly contentious among all religions. Documentarian Macky Alston doesn’t completely neglect his detractors: One official spends her time onscreen crying as she tries to defend why she’s still resistant to homosexual tolerance among church offices. That it speaks to her at all is a good sign, though, and Robinson himself is one of the kindest and most gentle people to ever become a documentary subject.