After producing several documentary films (and a few shorts) over the last six years, Bahamian filmmaker Kareem Mortimer has finally made the leap to feature-length fiction work with Children of God. And he has no intention of looking back. "Documentaries were really, really important to me. I will probably return to that form at some time. But it won't be in the next five years. I've always wanted to do narrative," he says.
The film takes place in a time when there were protests in the Bahamas against gay cruises that were coming here. I was living here at the time. And it was crazy. They had all these talk shows and people were saying really hateful things on the radio. The language was very dangerous.
It seems to be a common perception that homophobia is culturally engrained in Caribbean societies. Do you disagree with that assumption?
No. I agree with that.
Is it something tied directly to religion?
I believe that religion plays a huge part. But that's a very difficult question, you know. Religion doesn't teach you to be homophobic. In the film, I talk about religion, but I don't say that religion is the cause. Homosexuality is present in everybody's life and we try to cover it in so many ways.
The reason I ask that question about religion is there's a secretly gay pastor in the film.
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There are two pastors in the film. First, there's the gay pastor Ralph Mackie, who's the husband of Lena, the main female character in the film. Then, there's Reverend Richie, who's questioning his religious beliefs, but he's not gay. These two people play against each other. Reverend Richie is a guy who's not really bothered by homosexuals and sees their humanity. Meanwhile, the secretly closeted pastor speaks very vehemently against gays.
So Ralph Mackie's homophobia and fear is stoked by self-denial?
Yeah. The film is about fear and hypocrisy. I think as human beings we try hide what's vulnerable about ourselves. But, you know, what's vulnerable about ourselves is usually also what's beautiful. And when we try to hide that we turn ourselves into all sorts of horrible things.
Children of God, Dir. Kareem Mortimer, 103 minutes. Screening Saturday, March 13 at 9:30 p.m., Regal Cinemas (1120 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach), and Sunday, March 14 at 9 p.m., Tower Theater (1508 SW 8th St., Miami). 305-405-MIFF; miamifilmfestival.com.