Two new LGBT documentaries
by Megan Smith
Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or come from a home with same-sex parents, being different from society’s idea of “normal” can really cast a shadow on one’s thoughts and hopes for the future. However, every day, these individuals overcome unimaginable hardship to prove they are strong, loving, and capable of achieving their dreams. In upcoming months, two documentaries, Unbreakable Threads and Breaking Through, hit Houston’s big screens, portraying the struggle, survival, support, and love of LGBT-identified people and their families with both honesty and clarity.
As a long-time elementary schoolteacher, mother of three daughters, and wife to her husband, first-time Houstonian director Stacey Summers has devoted herself to changing the lives of children. After living in more liberal cities like New York and San Francisco, she was shocked to find that in Houston, some of her students were bullied or teased because of the types of families in which they were raised.
As a visual learner, she decided the best way to stop this kind of behavior in schools, while changing others’ minds, was to create a film under her company Poppy Pro Productions. This documentary, Unbreakable Threads, normalizes the different types of families in Houston, with a special emphasis on families with same-sex parents. Interviews with
the families of Mayor Annise Parker, KPRC Channel 2’s Frank Billingsley, chef Monica Pope, and advocate Zach Wahls are among the highlights. “If I could make a film that actually portrayed all of these beautiful families of today and show it in schools and all over Houston and who else knows where it would go from there, maybe I can really make a difference,” Summers says.
She hopes that the film, which portrays these families in a personal and intimate light, evokes heartfelt feelings from viewers, encouraging them to continue to promote diversity and tolerance. “All of these families are similar,” she says. “They all want the same thing. They’re all providing love and security and they want to provide happiness for their children. That’s the ultimate goal—no matter where you come from or who’s raising you, if you love your family and your family loves you, you all have the same hopes of producing healthy and happy grownups.”
Unbreakable Threads is currently in post-production and is expected to be released this fall. Summers has hosted several fundraising events to raise money for the project’s final editing process and encourages anyone interested in donating to the film to contact her at unbreakablethreads.hotmail.com. “All children need to feel proud of their families and not have to worry about what anyone else thinks,” she says.
Screenings for the documentary have already been scheduled at River Oaks Theatre and the University of Houston, with hopes for additional screenings at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, local schools, and the National Conference on LGBT Equality.
Openly LGBT elected officials share their stories of overcoming barriers set by everything from race to sexual orientation to self-abuse and alcoholism in this award-winning documentary that reminds us all that the American Dream is alive and well.
Directed, produced, and written by Cindy L. Abel, Breaking Through offers inspiring and at times heart-wrenching stories from LGBT officials at all levels, including Mayor Annise Parker, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Judge Phyllis Randolph Frye, and former representative Barney Frank. “Though it features politicians, this film isn’t about politics,” Abel says. “It’s about people—people who feel fear and shame and yearning to live meaningful lives, despite the barriers in their way. They reveal how they broke through barriers internally, daring to believe something different than what they were told, and externally as they pursued and achieved the future they envisioned.”
The stories told in Breaking Through, which was awarded a Silver Remi for feature documentary at WorldFest Houston International Film Festival this April, prove that those who are in doubt about their futures because they are LGBT-identified are not alone.
“I really thought that I would face a choice between being out and pursuing the career of my dreams,” Tammy Baldwin says in the film. Along the same lines, California State Assembly member Toni Atkins says, “I just didn’t think America was about me.”
However, though each interviewee faced struggles and ignorance during their climb to the top, most emphasize that people will pleasantly surprise you more than they will disappoint. And, in the end, you can achieve your dreams. “You’re denying things that are a part of you if you’re not out,” Rives Kistler, justice for the Oregon Supreme Court says in the film. “You’re living something that is a lie in a lot of ways, and that’s not a good way to live.”
Breaking Through is also featured as an official part of Houston Pride Week. Presented by Reel Pride, the screening takes place on June 26 at River Oaks Theatre. Tickets are available for $10 each and can be purchased online at pridehouston.org.