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J.A.A. Purves

Love Free or Die (2012)

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Robert Levin -

It follows the courageous Bishop Gene as he faces a wealth of hatred and distrust. He is excluded from the Anglican Church’s once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, and he faces death threats, cruel hecklers, and more while fighting for full-fledged equality in his church and a newfound understanding of the Bible’s most controversial elements. Robinson, a folksy native Southerner with charm to spare, is a relentless advocate for LGBT rights, adept at interpreting scripture from that vantage point in a positive and forward-thinking way. Beneath his good-humored exterior, though, is the steel-eyed focus and unbending will of a man who knows he’s on an essential crusade for justice and won’t stop until he gets it.

Sure, we meet the bishop’s husband and his daughters and learn small blips of biographical details. We watch as he wins over skeptical parishioners. But the movie is not some quirky piece about an unlikely clergyman. It’s a story rooted to the here-and-now, an exploration of the most-essential front in what remains the last great civil rights issue. A certain understanding of religion, of course, is at the heart of homophobia. Change that paradigm and you’re on to something massive.

Sarah Moffitt -

Macky Alston has been to Sundance once before, to debut one of his films in 1997, but this year the experience is a little different. Alston's movie, "Love Free or Die", a documentary competition film, hits close to home and he hopes it will start a dialogue that could change a lot of people's lives ...

According to Itkoff, the film took over four years to make and quite a bit of convincing. "We had some issues getting the clergy to come forward," she said. "It is a difficult topic to get people to talk about, especially considering the current environment inside the church, she said, adding that hopefully more conversation will be generated after Sundance.

"You never know what to expect before your premiere," Alston said. "I can't wait for that first time an audience is engaged in your movie. I know we have a powerful and timely film that I am hoping will prompt people to begin talking about this and really stand up for what they believe in.

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Link to our thread on For the Bible Tells Me So (2007), another documentary in which Robinson was a significant interviewee.

Link to our read-only thread on the 'Anglican Schism?' (Aug 2003 - Dec 2008).

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Didn't realize we had a thread for this film. Here's a link to my review from the Full Frame Film Festival.

Also, here is a link to a podcast about the film at The Thin Place.


  • 0:00 – Profile, persuasion, or historical account?
  • 7:00 – Talking past each other and retrofitting theology
  • 13:33 – Theological argument or social justice argument?
  • 19:13 – How heterosexuals are portrayed — leadership vs. laity
  • 24:12 – The lack of a theological argument
  • 31:30 – Social justice vs. the integrity of the church, part 2
  • 35:19 – North Carolina Amendment #1 and Unintended Consequences
  • 40:24 – The film as film; humanizing gays AND Christians

I interviewed director Mackey Alston and retired bishop Otis Charles, and that interview should be available before the May 8th vote in North Carolina on Amendment One. Not sure where that will be, but I'll post a link to it once it is up. Alston had some very interesting comments.Some of the interview (as well as e-mail exchanges with Bishop Ed Little who is interviewed in the film) work their way into the podcast and inform it.

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Robinson announced he is divorcing his partner:

“It is at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples,” Robinson wrote.


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