BACKLASH dives deep into LGBTQ stories of pain and confusion across the center of North Carolina, along with the people who stand side-by-side with them, including clergy and politicians, as they guard themselves from the backlash of hate that is being thrown at them every day since the landmark Supreme Court ruling on June 26, 2015 giving same-sex couples the legal right to marry.
Most of the country believes that ‘gays’ have finally won their equal rights. Yet, no matter what faith, a serious backlash continues: it is the religious right and fundamentalists that have clung even tighter and moved forward on the notion that ‘gays’ are sinners and not worthy of inclusion in their communities.
When a child is born, all we want for them is to be healthy and to keep them safe and away from harm. Yet, some parents actually disown their own children, once their gay, lesbian, or transgender child finally gets up the courage to ‘come out,’ because they have been taught by their religion that their child is an abomination, no better than a murderer. Korah is a transgender woman, thrown out of her Southern Baptist church in Raleigh, NC after 16 years as a faithful congregant and active volunteer; Paula’s mother and sister choose God over her; Rabbi Melissa, a gay rabbi, works at UNC Chapel Hill serving the Jewish students and the gay community on campus; Rabbi Larry Bach stands up for his young transgender son; Reverend Nancy Petty comes out to her congregation before she does to her parents; and, a young gay Muslim is too afraid to speak on camera.
In this era of Trump, the religious right and fundamentalists turn back the clock against the LGBTQ community, ‘gays’ are more afraid than ever before, some going back ‘into closet’, afraid of losing their jobs, being ‘thrown out’ of their places of worship, and disowned by their parents, family, and friends.
BACKLASH is urgent and timely – it needs to be made now. In the current political climate the LGBTQ community is ‘up-for-grabs’ and the backlash to the Supreme Court ruling ensues.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center there are 954 hate groups across the country, including 31 hate groups in North Carolina. Calls to the LGBT Center of Raleigh’s crisis line, since HB2 (the ‘bathroom’ bill), has increased eight-fold. As recently as April 2017, four Republicans introduced a bill to outlaw gay marriage in North Carolina and return to 'decree of Almighty God'.
Ellen Shepard, a Jewish and Lesbian documentary filmmaker, has lived in Raleigh, North Carolina with her wife for many years. Her last film, Sitting at God's Table gives her access to interfaith religious leaders from across the state, including the now infamous Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. One of the plot points in that film deals with homosexuals in religion and really sparked a passion in her to make BACKLASH. She is very active in the LGBTQ community. She relocated from Los Angeles where she was Senior Producer and Director of Documentaries and Educational Media at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA); her previous documentaries include TeenRap: Discussions in Teen Suicide.
It was during the making of my last documentary Sitting at God's Table, when I was in a conversation with five religious leaders from different faiths about numerous hot topics, that we discussed homosexuality, including those clergy who struggle to make sense of the acceptance of gays in their faith, equating it to murder and the deepest of sins. During this filming, it became clear that my next documentary would be about the LGBTQ community and religion.
Cinematically it's about light and movement. This documentary is not about one or two people ... being gay is tough. It's not for the weaker sex ... no matter the sex. This film will begin with the Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage and will move quickly back in time to where the south, specifically North Carolina, stood on gay issues and equality ... and then, before they can say 'Amendment One' (North Carolina's law against gay marriage) ... it became legal across the nation ... and that's where the BACKLASH begins...including the 'bathroom law,' HB2, where North Carolina still millions of dollars to sports events and corporations who are determined not to do business with this homophobic state.
It is crucial that I complete BACKLASH for what I consider to be an urgent project. There is so much pain and suffering experienced by the LGBTQ community since the backlash began. We will investigate how this has happened and why, and solutions that our characters are working toward for lasting change and equality.
Ellen Shepard is an independent producer and director of documentaries at E. Shepard Productions; her most recent film “Sitting at God's Table" has had numerous screenings, including at the NC Museum of History as part of their Billy Graham Exhibit and was an Official Selection at the Indigo Moon Film Festival. Her documentaries include “Teen Rap – a Discussion in Teen Suicide” and “My Parents Are Growing Old” which won First Place at the North Carolina Film Festival. For 16 years she was Assistant Professor of Film at Saint Augustine's University in Raleigh, NC, where she developed their BA degree in Film and taught advanced classes in film production and documentaries. She relocated to Raleigh from Los Angeles 21 years ago where she was Senior Producer/Director of Documentaries and Educational Media at UCLA.