Category: Documentary, Gay & Lesbian
I rated it: 3 stars
Small Town Gay Bar is an 80 minute or so movie that explores the gay culture in Northeastern Mississippi. We learn that there is a lone gay bar in town, Rumors, that has long been viewed as a place that much of the town stays far away from and condemns to damnation . However for those that patronize the bar, Rumors has become a symbol of the gay and lesbian community, becoming the only outfit that many of it's patrons have to feel like they can be themselves.
Throughout the film, we not only explore this bar, but learn about another bar, Crossroads, that used to exist several years ago in another part of Mississippi, but shut down years later when things got out of control. Although the bar is set to re-open as the documentary progresses through time, the documentary also takes a step back to explore why various gay bars in the state were forced out of business. Revelations about the American Family Associations involvement in writing down the license plates of patrons and broadcasting them on the radio are shocking for those of us who react to it as just being all kinds of wrong. However, a lot of us don't live in a place like Northeastern Mississippi, either.
When placed on the background of what's going on in the world right now with Gay & Lesbians fighting for equal marriage right, and this battle being called it's own civil rights movement, Small Town Gay Bar demonstrates in many ways just how much the gay community has to fight just to maintain peace and order in small town america. This movie never addresses gay marriage, as it's plainly obvious that there's many places in America that have much further to go in acceptance. Parts of the movie feel downright depressing, when we explore the murder of one of the patrons who was killed in a hate crime, and those from big cities like myself might be left with a feeling of "This kind of stuff really happens in the world?"
Although I give a recommendation to this movie for the learning experience and the "shock and awe" of it all, Small Town Gay Bar didn't work for me on some technical levels. I felt in portions of the movie, the audio was really bad and even hard to hear some of the interviews. While the editing of the movie was good, I felt the movie jumped back and forth between some of the topics almost too quickly, and more of the lives of the patrons I would have liked to explore were ditched in favor of scenes I felt just didn't work. An interview occurs near the middle of the movie with Fred Phelps, also known as "that crazy asshole that leads the god hates fags church". I felt the interview was out of place, seeming to only very loosely tie into the mississippi setting of the movie. We already know this guy is a crazy asshole, and I felt time spent with this interview should have been spent in looking at more of the "real" people in Mississippi who won't allow the gay and lesbian people their space. Perhaps they would not agree to be on film.
So the movie is interesting subject matter, but didn't work for me on a few technical and pacing levels. I recommend it not just to gay and lesbian film fans, but to those looking for a different approach to the controversial issue of gays and lesbians not just looking for equal rights, but to even be acknowledged in the first place.