Prayers Out of the Closet

Sightlines: Filmmaking in the Academy Issue 4 2022

 

Márcio Andrade: Writer, Director, Producer
Film: Prayers Out of the Closet
Year: 2018
Length: 13 minutes 36 seconds

RESEARCH STATEMENT

Every life narrative is composed of reflections that weave the itinerary of experience and feed a tension between the singular and the universal, acting on the possibility of inventing the history itself and arising from motivations such as confession, justification and elaboration of meanings (Calligaris 1998), spreading in formats such as biographies, autobiographies, letters and diaries. In the film Prayers Out of Closet (Preces Fora do Armário, 2018), I create a relationship between autobiographical act and other characters to address my difficulty in reconciling religion and sexual diversity. Between archival images, personal testimonies and visits to rituals, I explore the search for others to create my own image of faith. The conceptual bases of the autobiography consist of the presence of a veracity pact, the approach to individual life, the retrospective account of the first person existence of the singular and the nominal identity between narrator, author and character (Lejeune 1989). The emergence of these characteristics in cinema takes place in the field of documentary, in which the interest in the gesture of creating an image of the self reveals formal possibilities that transformed our relations with cinematographic writings (Sherman 1998; Lane 2002; Macdonald 2013). In this film, I show myself, at the same time, as the object of my history and the result of a transformation, which can make us think about authorship not as a result of an artist’s expression, but as an operation to elaborate oneself in the realms individual, social and spiritual. Sayad (2008) thinks of authorship as a relevant issue in studies on creation, balancing between a formalist and structuralist look around doing and a symbolic sense that ‘indicates the presence of a thinking being who expresses himself through the film – which, in turn, gives work an artistic value’ (28). When I look at myself in the past, I try to combine the instances of the person and the screenwriter to rework moments of my own story through a kind of game, in which the process of discovery leads to the opening and repetition of a kind of death of myself. In this sense, the narrative works as a poetic elaboration of an image of me, in which the elements taken up by the author-person and reworked by the author-writer (archival images, interviews, voice-over narration, etc) function as images that build my own story and myself. For Johann, one of the elements of the screenwriter’s craft consists of ‘subverting the elements that are given to us by their uses; that we can have the ability to inhabit the void properly, filling it with imagination’ (2015, 91). In Prayers Out the Closet I crystallise a desire to imagine my own interiority, instead of ‘objectively’ representing an image of myself, allowing for reflection on how, when narrating ourselves, we do not represent ourselves, but simulate ourselves.

REFERENCES

Calligaris, Contardo. 1998. Verdades de autobiografias e diários íntimos.. Revista Estudos Históricos, Rio de Janeiro, v. 11, n. 21, 43-58.

Lane, Jim. 2002. The Autobiographical Documentary in America. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Lejeune, Philippe. 2014. O pacto autobiográfico: de Rousseau à internet. 2ª ed. Belo Horizonte, Editora UFMG.

Macdonald Scott. 2013. American ethnographic film and personal documentary: the Cambridge turn. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Sayad, Cecilia. 2008. O jogo da reinvenção. São Paulo: Alameda.

Sherman, Sharon. 1998. Documenting Ourselves: film, video, and culture. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.

 

PEER REVIEW 1

This short film deals with three (four if we include the Director) young gay people dealing with their feelings about the Church and its rejection of homosexuality.  The three interviewees are diverse and well-chosen.  They are clear and articulate. They are Brian Oliver, Christiana Serra and Bispo Rodrigo Faddoul.  The interviews are preceded with poetic footage of elements of religious ceremonies with the Director’s voice-over delivered in poetic mode addressing his mother with the issues he has been previously unable to discuss with her. He returns his address to her at the end. The poetic montage material is also used when cutting between different sections of the film. The content of the interviews and the voiceover works well to communicate to its audience the feelings of rejection all four have suffered in relation to their previous faiths.  In particular, the emotion shown towards the end of Brian Oliver’s interview shows well how hard it must be for a gay person of faith to feel rejected by their religion, and in his case, damned to hell.  The structure of the film goes from the interviewees talking about their initial feelings of hurt by the church’s rejection of them to a discussion about the changes that are beginning to happen and that they are seeing with regard to the acceptance of gay people in the church.  All appear to now be activists in bringing about that change.  The structure works well and the film posits a serious question at the beginning with a strong resolution at the end about the coming changes.

Part of the Director/Writer’s statement says this:

In this film, I show myself, at the same time, as the object of my history and the result of a transformation, which can make us think about authorship not as a result of an artist’s expression, but as an operation to elaborate oneself in the realms individual, social and spiritual. Sayad (2008) thinks of authorship as a relevant issue in studies on creation, balancing between a formalist and structuralist look around doing and a symbolic sense that ‘indicates the presence of a thinking being who expresses himself through the film – which, in turn, gives work an artistic value’ (28).

The film lives up to its potential in the way it does integrate the individual with the social and spiritual. On the technical side, the lighting, framing, focus, sound and use of music is all good.

The author writes, ‘In Prayers Out the Closet, I crystallise a desire to imagine my own interiority, instead of ‘objectively’ representing an image of myself, allowing for reflection on how, when narrating ourselves, we do not represent ourselves, but simulate ourselves’. This is the heart of the research question – an experiment into how the author-person can be reworked as the author-writer in a filmic representation, a simulation of the person.

Is there evidence of innovation (in form or content for example)? 

There is no particular innovation, but this film makes a useful contribution to the autobiographical/biographical sub-genre of documentary film.

Is the work contextualised within specific social/artistic theoretical fields? 

Yes.  This is done quite well.  The director/author is interested in questions of authorship and showing himself simultaneously, as the object of his own history ‘and the result of a transformation’, which allows audiences to think about the individual in social, spiritual and individual realms.

Is there evidence of new knowledge, interpretation, insights or experiences? 

Yes.  While other films have explored the church and its attitude to homosexuality this film explores the issue with a light touch, personal reflection and serious consideration.

 

PEER REVIEW 2

I found this piece both interesting and compelling. Such was my interest that my main feedback is that it could have been longer. Whilst stylistically conventional, Andrade’s approach is both personal, yet universal, inviting a range of voices into the investigation of how some Brazilians reconcile and navigate their LGBTQI sexual identities in relation to their Christian beliefs and the dominant doctrine of the Catholic Church. The research question is clearly articulated throughout the film without it being didactic.

I personally would have liked to have seen the filmmaker’s face at some stage given his participants were so direct and open in their interviews. Other minor feedback would be that the pacing of personal reflections was out of synch with the interviews and would benefit from slowing down.

The genre conventions of the film are not uncommon, even if the topic being explored is underrepresented, and the written statement would be strengthened with more contemporary examples and references.  However, I’d like to acknowledge that with the written submission the filmmaker is working in their second language and although there are some grammatical errors, these are minor.

This is an important topic and it deserves further investigation and I hope the filmmaker has a longer project in mind.

 

RESEARCHER RESPONSE

The comments made by the two peer reviewers were extremely important for the growth of the research because they collaborated in the dialogue in relation to the development of theoretical research, as well as in relation to the aesthetic result in its filmic form.

In the revised version of the research statement, I included some more references and examples of films with similar themes, with a broader overview of documentaries on religion and sexual diversity.

In one of the review texts, the author comments that the film ‘explores the subject with a light touch, personal reflection and serious consideration’. For me, this is a comment that clearly elucidates the aesthetics that concern me as a subject and as a writer.

Regarding the technical aspects reported by the reviewers, they will help me in future works. I am very grateful to the authors for their generosity in the evaluation and to Sightlines Journal for the opportunity for dialogue.

REVISED RESEARCH STATEMENT

Every life narrative is composed of reflections that weave the itinerary of experience and feed a tension between the singular and the universal, acting on the possibility of inventing history itself and arising from motivations such as confession, justification and elaboration of meanings (Calligaris, 1998), spreading in formats such as biographies, autobiographies, letters and diaries. In the film Prayers Out of Closet (Preces Fora do Armário, 2018), I have created a relationship between autobiographical act and other characters to address my difficulty in reconciling religion and sexual diversity. Among archival images, personal testimonies and visits to rituals, I explored the search for other idiosyncrasies to create my own image of faith. The conceptual bases of the autobiography consist of the presence of a veracity pact, the approach to individual life, the retrospective report of the existence in the first person singular and the nominal identity between the narrator, author and character (Lejeune 2014). The emergence of these characteristics in cinema takes place in the field of documentary, in which an interest in the gesture of creating an image of the self reveals formal possibilities that transform our relations with cinematographic writings (Sherman 1998; Lane 2002; Macdonald 2013). A reflection on the entanglements and strangeness between the spheres of Christian religions and sexual diversity, even though they are issues that span many decades, has not yet been explored in many films, two of few being the feature-length documentaries Bible Tells Me So (Daniel G. Karslake 2007) and As cores do divino (Victor Costa Lopes 2020). However, in neither of these films, are there spectres of an autobiographical narrative, in which filmmakers perceive themselves telling their own stories of relationships between religion and sexual diversity. Thus, I believe that Prayers Outside the Closet opens a fissure in this section, proposing that more LGBTQIA + filmmakers address the complexity of the relationship between faith and sexuality in the context of different religions.

In this film, I show myself, at the same time, as the object of my history and the result of a transformation, which can make us think about authorship not as a result of an artist’s expression, but as an operation to elaborate oneself in the individual, social and spiritual realms. Sayad thinks of authorship as a relevant issue in studies on creation, balancing between a formalist and structuralist look around the practice of writing and a symbolic sense that ‘indicates the presence of a thinking being who expresses himself through the film – which, in turn, gives work an artistic value’ (2008, 28). When I look at myself in the past, I try to combine the instances of the person and the screenwriter to rework moments of my own story through a kind of game, in which the process of discovery leads to the opening and repetition of a kind of death of myself. In this sense, the narrative works as a poetic elaboration of an image of me, in which the elements taken up by the author-person and reworked by the author-writer (archival images, interviews, voice-over narration, etc) function as images that build my own story and myself. For Johann, one of the elements of the screenwriter’s craft consists of ‘subverting the elements that are given to us by their uses; that we can have the ability to inhabit the void properly, filling it with imagination’ (2015, 91). In Prayers Out the Closet I crystallise a desire to imagine my own interiority, instead of ‘objectively’ representing an image of myself, allowing for reflection on how, when narrating ourselves, we do not represent ourselves, but simulate ourselves.

REFERENCES

Calligaris, Contardo. 1998. Verdades de autobiografias e diários íntimos.. Revista Estudos Históricos, Rio de Janeiro, v. 11, n. 21, 43-58.

Johann, Ana A. 2015. Construção do poético no roteiro cinematográfico. Curitiba: Edição da autora.

Karslake, Daniel. 2007. For the Bible Tells Me So. United States: First Run Features.

Lane, Jim. 2002. The Autobiographical Documentary in America. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Lejeune, Philippe. 2014. O pacto autobiográfico: de Rousseau à internet. 2ª ed. Belo Horizonte, Editora UFMG.

Lopes, Victor Costa. 2020. As cores do divino. Brasil: Orla Filmes.

Macdonald Scott. 2013. American ethnographic film and personal documentary: the Cambridge turn. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Sayad, Cecilia. 2008. O jogo da reinvenção. São Paulo: Alameda.

Sherman, Sharon. 1998. Documenting Ourselves: film, video, and culture. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.

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