small town gay bar
It’s not easy being gay in the Bible Belt. As one Tupelo, Miss., resident says, the way life goes there is you either subscribe to the Christian Coalition’s views or you’re going to hell. But the reality is that whether or not people throughout conservative America want to admit it, there are homosexuals in every community, even theirs.
So when you live in an area of the country that does not embrace or even tolerate gay culture, what do you do? Where do you go to socialize, be yourself? Director Malcolm Ingram asked the same questions and sought to find the answers through his documentary, small town gay bar.
This film looks at the role two bars in rural Mississippi play in giving the gay communities in those areas a place where everyone is welcome and can feel like they belong. As a result, small town gay bar is an honest look about the gay experience as told through the lives of several residents. It explores both the highs of finding some acceptance within their communities and the extreme lows of the hatred and violence they experience as a way of life.
The film turns out to be very inspiring and inherently sad at the same time. For gays living in conservative Christian communities, options are few: hide who you are and hope no one notices that you are extremely lonely, unfulfilled or not what you portray yourself to be; or be true to yourself and deal with the fall out, which runs the gamut from being preached to and prayed for; to being run out of your job or, in the most extreme cases, tortured and murdered. And yet gay communities survive there, and steadfastly refuse to go away.
small town gay bar’s stories show how starkly gay life in rural America differs from that in metropolitan centers, such as New York or Miami. Gays there must live double lives, finding a balance between living a socially accepted life by day, and being free to act and interact as they feel most comfortable at night. The importance of the gay bar, as place where they can openly be themselves, in these communities is exponentially higher than in the cities.
In these parts of the country, the rule of law is not determined by the blind scales of justice; these are social theocracies. What is determined to be moral by the Bible, or whatever is the accepted interpretation thereof, is what is right, and there is no room for deviation. There, a gay bar owner can be arrested for contributing to the delinquency of minors by passing out AIDS literature. There, people are not arrested for shooting at buildings within the vicinity of a gay bar. There, it’s okay to broadcast on "family" radio the license plate numbers of cars seen parking at a gay bar.
This film is heartening, funny, sad, informative, and in some parts downright offensive in its candid look at reality. small town gay bar was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and though it did not win any awards, it did receive a standing ovation. The film did hit theatres in a very limited release, but will hit its stride now on DVD, at least that is the hope of executive producer Kevin Smith, who has helped shepherd the project along since Ingram had pitched the film.
As irreverent as always, you can hear Smith’s, Ingram’s and editor Scott Mosier’s back story with the film on the DVD’s extras. Also be sure to check out A Conversation with the Folks of Tupelo, town hall-type Q&A footage, which did not make it into the final cut but adds more personal stories of day-to-day life. The other bonus features, I could take or leave.
Audio commentary by Malcolm Ingram and Scott Tremblay
Story of ’Small Town Gay Bar
A Chat with Editor Scott Mosier
A Conversation with the Folks of Tupelo
Willie Washington at ’Rumors
The New Owners of Rumors
Selling of Rumors