The opening title of Gay Chorus Deep South arrives on the screen in two parts, “Gay Chorus” followed by “Deep South”, as if the two ideas are incompatible- two concepts that can’t make their way into the same frame.
Yet, it is this binary way of thinking that the director David Charles Rodriguez wants us to confront in watching this road trip tale following the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’ tour across areas of America enacting anti-LGBTQ legislation. The music itself is incredibly moving, a mixture of hymns, country and gospel, sung in all sorts of venues around the Bible Belt. Some of these locations, such as their visit to a church in Selma, Alabama, are particularly interesting, grappling with the tension between the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the area and the current opposition from residents in regards to LGBTQ equality. Contradictions like these are where the film really shines, questioning the nature of what Southern hospitality really means when basic rights are being stripped away. As of the time of writing, LGBTQ Americans still aren’t fully protected from discrimination in more than half of all US states. The political always starts with the personal, and the dialogue that the film encourages between those with oppositional views is more prescient than ever.
Hannah Bookless is a Screenplay 2021 reviewer. After developing an early interest in film due to an exposure to Bollywood, Hannah went on to study Film and Philosophy at the University of St. Andrews. She loved it so much she stayed one more year for a masters. These days, when not at the cinema, she can be found repairing glasses or foraging mushrooms around town.