Wish Me Away: The Chely Wright Story (2012) – Documentary Retroview

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Nashville music star Chely Wright, adored by millions of conservation country and western fans, lived much of her public life and career as a lie — until she decided to match up her public and professional persona with her inner truth. Chely is gay, and she decided that she had to come out.

She knew she would experience a huge back lash from the country and western community — entertainers and fans alike — but she felt she could no longer live the lie.

With the counseling of her pastor and the help of her closest confidants, Chely carefully prepared for and planned her coming out. She gave filmmakers Bobbi Birleffi and Beverly Kopf complete access to chronicle the process, including the many moments of doubt she had and the fears she had about the consequences of her decision.

Wish Me Away is a very moving biodoc, in which Chely’s background, career, public persona and personal mores are covered, as is her relationship with the notoriously conservative and homophobic Nashville community.

Chely is lovely, talented and sincerely soul searching — all qualities that easily evoke empathy. But, among the many on camera interviews conducted for the film — with Chely, herself, and the likes of Rosie O’Donnell and Oprah — the most moving footage in the film is video shot by Chely as her daily diaries. She speaks directly into the camera, as if treating it has her confessor, and pours out her heart. She no doubt knows that she will eventually be turning these tapes over for use in what eventually becomes Wish Me Away, but she neither censors herself nor plays to the camera. And her story, her struggle are completely compelling.

A Film With Wide Appeal

Chely’s story has wide appeal, not only because she’s a celebrity who chooses to risk her career in order to be true to herself, but because the film is so genuinely personal and brave that it can spark others to claim their truths, as well. Along with documentaries such as For My Wife (2008) and The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (2011), for example, it speaks very eloquently to the need to establish without question our rights to personal civil liberties. But, after being privy to Chely’s struggle and determined bravery, to see the reaction of some of her peers and fans is alarming. This film is a really good lesson about the need for tolerance, understanding and acceptance. Hopefully, it will be an advance on the ongoing struggle by raising awareness on a widespread scale among the conservative country and western music fan base.

On a lighter note, Wish Me Away is also an excellent music documentary, with a lot of entertaining footage of Chely’s performances and behind the scenes music industry play. For viewers who don’t follow country and western music and know Chely’s work, the film is likely to turn you into a fan. Chely Wright is really terrific, and so is this film.

Disclaimer: Wish Me Away won the Alliance of Women Film Journalists EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Film at the 2012 Salem Film Fest. I was a member of the jury, and am President of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists

Film Details

Wish Me Away: The Chely Wright Story
Directors: Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf
Release Date: June 1, 2012 (limited US theatrical release)
Running Time: 120 mins.
Parents Advisory: Parents Guide: Content advisory for parents
Locations: USA
Language: English
Distribution Company: First Run Features
Official Website

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