European Premiere Screening of film “Taking a Chance on God” on pioneer priest in Florence Film Festival
For Release Oct 22th, 2012
October is LGBT history month with events taking place around the country. This also marks the 50th anniv of Vatican 2 which ushered in reform and renewal in the Catholic Church. This weekend LGBT movement leaders and Catholics will gather Le Moyne College for the Eurpean Premiere screening of screening of a film about a former Jesuit teacher .
“Taking A Chance on God”, a documentary on the life of 87 year old gay pioneer priest John McNeill, will screen this Saturday, Oct 25t at as a highlight of the 2012 Syracuse Film Festival.
The film highlights McNeill’s role as hero and pioneer of the international LGBT civil rights movement. An inspiring portrait, Taking a Chance on God follows the extraordinary life of 87-year-old John McNeill from his Buffalo, NY boyhood through his experiences as a POW in Nazi Germany, his Le Moyne College years as professor and Vietnam peace promoter, leading gay rights advocate, and loving partner of 47 years to Charles Chiarelli.
McNeill, the author of groundbreaking works of gay spirituality, founder of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity/New York, and a gay community leader during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, refused to be silenced by the Vatican on LGBT issues, which resulted in his expulsion from the Jesuit priesthood. Chronicling McNeill’s love for the Catholic Church, the LGBT community, his Jesuit brothers, and his partner, Taking a Chance on God is a powerful story of faith, love and perseverance in the face of oppression and rejection.
Fay’s Taking A Chance On God traces the surprising and uncommon life of a humble and honest Irish American who, after surviving as a POW in Nazi Germany, joined a number of high-profile voices for peace during Vietnam, including that of renowned Jesuit anti war poet Daniel Berrigan.
McNeill’s groundbreaking writings, including his 1976 book The Church and Homosexual, have been translated into many languages and inspired the founding of Dignity/USA, an influential organization for LGBT Catholics.
In 1977 and again in 1983, McNeill was silenced for speaking and writing on issues of homosexuality by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, currently Pope Benedict XVI. For “pertinacious disobedience” to this order of silence, McNeill was eventually expelled from the Jesuit order in April 1987.
Fay, an Irish-born filmmaker and activist, is director of Remembering Mychal and co-producer of Saint of 9/11, films about Fr. Mychal Judge, the New York Fire Department chaplain who died in the World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001. McNeill was Fr. Judge’s counselor and both priests began The Upper Room AIDS Ministry, an outreach for homeless persons with AIDS in Harlem during the 1980s AIDS crisis. The work continues today as Harlem United.
Fay noted that Taking a Chance on God “is a heartfelt story of a man and movement dedicated to opening hearts and minds for LGBT persons in the Catholic Church and society.” Brendan conceived the documentary film partly in an effort to “help keep the movement for change going.” The film is a “story of the heart- of John McNeill’s love for his Church, his Jesuit brothers, the LGBT community and his beloved Charlie,” said Fay.
I am delighted that this film is being screened here in the Florence Film Festival and during October – LGBT history month. I am delighted that John will see the story of life and his passionate leadership honored. John is a rare and complex priest with his honesty and compassion.
Producer & editor Ilene Cutler stated, “As a filmmaker and activist I am incredibly moved by this story of courage and hope. Although I am Jewish and not religious in a traditional sense, the story of John’s life and what his struggle stands for, speaks to me loudly. As a lesbian and activist for social change, I am honored to be a part of making a film whose central message is one of love, compassion, respect and simple human dignity. If one life is affected by this work, then it has been worthwhile. John’s message of love and respect can literally save lives.”
Fay said the film is currently being translated to Polish, Irish, Italian, French and Spanish. “A new generation of LGBT youth across the world welcomes John McNeill’s reassuring voice of hope. McNeill’s message that gay love can be holy love is as relevant today as when he first began to proclaim it in the early 1970s.” The film is doing very well on the festival circuit and is being screened at a universities and colleges. Following the Oct 25th the film will have its European premiere at the Florence Film Festival. From there the film goes on to screen in Rome, Milan, Naples , Palermo …In November the film will screen as part of the OUTBURST Arts Festival in Belfast.
Fay continued, “Taking A Chance on God addresses current issues of human rights and same-sex marriage in a very personal way. John was a POW in Germany and with his partner of 47 years, Charles Chiarelli, are living witnesses to the joy of same-sex committed love.” McNeill and Chiarelli were legally married in Toronto on September 8, 2008.
The filmmakers of Taking A Chance on God are Brendan Fay: Director, Writer and Producer, Ilene Cutler, Producer & Editor, Dan Messina, Editor & Co-Writer, and Peter Wetzler, Composer.
For screening schedule visit www.takingachanceongod.com