AGLIFF 2019 review: LGBT Horror Short ‘CONVERSION THERAPIST’

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This dark and incredible piece of filmmaking comes along at the perfect time in our country’s history. CONVERSION THERAPIST flips the script on the nasty policy that some conservative religious factions still consider a normal practice. Very recent feature films The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Boy Erased tackle this head-on. It’s ugly and pretty much the most “unchristian” way to address a young person’s sexuality to put it lightly. Writer/Director Bears Rebecca Fonté created an extremely personal short through the horror genre.  The script slowly feeds you information but thoroughly immerses you into the terror, both physical and emotional. The film’s casting is essential to the story and it is spot on. The practical fx will make you squirm and the film has one of the most brilliant final lines I’ve heard in a long time. You will never see the twists coming. Bravo to Fonté for their immensely powerful film. You will not want to look away for a moment.  CONVERSION THERAPIST premieres tonight at AGLIFF.

CONVERSION THERAPIST follows a pansexual, polyamorous trio as they set out to kidnap and convert a ‘pray-the-gay-away’ therapist, using some of the same methods he used on queer youth, and some that are maybe a little more extreme.

Director Statement
On June 12th, 2016, I woke up to coverage of the Pulse nightclub shooting and felt my heart being ripped out. Even worse, I was due to moderate a Q&A of the Sandy Hook shooting documentary Newtown that night. What world were we living in? In the aftermath of Pulse, I couldn’t believe the bigotry of certain “ministers” who did more than hint that they believed the terrorist had done the world a favor. I poured my anger into this script and project.

But I also had started a ticking clock. I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to bring this story, with its transgender character, into the world and honestly discuss the story with the actors, crew and audiences without first being honest about myself. When I launched our Kickstarter campaign, I also announced to the world that I was Transgender.

A filmmaker has to realize they are on the front line at festivals, represent these issues as they represent their film, understand what is “in play” with their film and be ready to defend it. For my film, in addition to conversion therapy, I know the discussion will be about my own journey and the character of Salina, on whom the entire plot hinges. The most important thing about making any film is casting—you can’t fix that in post. With Conversation Therapist, this was especially important; I refused to cast a non-trans actress. Films and series like Transamerica, The Danish Girl and Transparent have been great for trans-visibility, but the casting of cisgender actors in these roles has been increasingly offensive to the trans community. Transgender actors should be able to tell their own stories. After a 9 month search, I found my star in Evalyn Jake, a young trans woman from Michigan who had never acted before. She is going to be a star if given the chance.

US Premiere
All Genders Lifestyles and Identities Film Festival (AGLIFF)
Horror Short | USA | 2019 | 20 minutes | Color 
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