"Fish Out of Water" dir. Ky Dickens, 2009

Last October I attended a panel at the Chicago International Film Festival on "Social Media" where one of the featured panelists was documentary film maker and co-founder of Yellow Wing Productions, Ky Dickens.  At the time, Dickens was speaking to the ways in which social media has benefited her in terms of spreading the word about her documentary film Fish Out of Water, but it wasn't until last night that I was able to see the film and talk with Dickens a bit more about the goals of this personal and political work, which she presented at the University of Michigan-Flint in conjunction with the Ellen Bomarito LGBT Center (currently directed by my amazing partner, Jennifer Salamone).

Documentary films addressing LGBT issues and history have developed a rich cannon over the last couple of decades, and Dickens' film takes an interesting place among them politically and aesthetically as one of the most concise and effective of those works, which include a number of other films put out by the distributor of Fish Out of Water, First Run Features, the label that put out the Stonewall documentaries and Daniel G. Karslake's For the Bible Tells Me So (2007), which deals with similar issues of the tensions between the church, scripture, and gay and lesbian culture.   The secondary title to Fish Out of Water is "A Film About Interpretation," and it is this aspect that sets the film apart in terms of it's capacity for social change.  Too often Christian scripture is used as a device of exclusion, hate, and persecution, and Dicken's film has the guts to call out that this absurd position of ignorance comes from a popular faction of Christian understanding that is largely uneducated (even when it comes to their own belief systems).  Fish Out of Water intelligently and respectfully lays out all of the classically debated scripture in a way that feels way overdue.

Ky Dickens' Fish Out of Water

Fish Out of Water is also notable for it's thoughtful integration of interview footage with the varied voices of the gay and lesbian and christian communities (and all the places those communities overlap and are divided), as well as her own narrative toward researching this much talked about, but often misinterpreted, controversy.  The way in which the film uses animation to follow Ky on her journey and explore the particular lines of scripture in question is both clever in relation to the film serving it's purpose as a tool for social change (not unlike the use of animation in Bret Morgen's Chicago 10), but is also genuinely entertaining and comedic, both in the writing and the voice work.  The film features illustrations and animation by Kyle Harter and Alan Saunders, and an original score by Kaki King.

Kaki King
Fish Out of Water is designed to clear up some essential questions about interpretation, and would make even the most close-minded reconsider their position when it comes to the New and Old Testaments, both of which are examined here from various perspectives, and in a way that actually gets at questions that reach beyond what the bible does or does not say about homosexuality.  If you know someone who needs to see this film, or want those questions addressed for yourself, the film can be purchased (and even sent anonymously to a relative or organization) from the film's website.  But, regardless of your orientation toward these topics, Fish Out of Water is a film that evokes questions of interpretation that are relevant to everyone.

Ky Dickens
One of the aspects that impressed me most about meeting Dickens on Tuesday was how she expressed her dedication to travelling with the film and communicating it's essential message.  For those wanting to bring Dickens to your campus, church, or theatrical venue, please look into bringing this remarkable activist film maker to where you are.  Many thanks from ECSTATIC to Ky and her partner for travelling to Flint.   Ky Dickens new documentary film is called Soul Survivor, which deals with the soul survivors of major airline disasters.  Watch the trailer here.

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