The key to answering the question in the title -Sexual or existential orientation?- is at the bottom of the stories told in two documentaries discussed below.
These are far from lectures. Paul, Rilene, Dan and Rubén are four real people, flesh and bone, who tell their shared experiences on screen: their decision to renounce their attraction to someone of the same sex, abandon their immoral and disordered lifestyles, and embrace God in their hearts. They lived their existence deprived of rules and limits, but filled with apparent success. At the same time, however, their existence emerges as having been filled with great interior suffering, anguish, and searching, until they reached turning point that allowed them to change their lives around.
They certainly continue to have the same tendencies, but they have now found true meaning to their existence. These are the main characters in the two documentaries recently released in English and Spanish: “ Desire of the Everlasting Hills " e " I t may happen to you " (Chapter 2).
In the first documentary, Paul, Rilene, and Dan, with the help of the interviewer, tell their experiences serenely, with such compassionate gazes towards those people who may find themselves along same path. They have learned something from everyone they’ve encountered. As their lives are retraced, deep insight is given into their most intimate desires, worries, feelings, outcomes, and failures, until the moment in which they found God.
In the beginning of the second documentary, the director Juan Manuel Cotelo tells the story of a man named Rubén. With the help of actors, he shows some phases of his life, starting with the premises (which echoes a mea culpa) that there have been times when Christians failed to accompany people like him. The second part of the film, however, reveals the impressions that others with similar experiences had after having watched Rubén’s story. For example, a young gay man who has no intention of converting or changing his lifestyle makes comments.
Both documentaries offer real life experiences, without moralizing pretenses. Desire of the Everlasting Hills unfolds the stories in a more linear fashion, in terms of narration. It is simple and direct: the main characters are left with the tasks of telling their own stories, sharing their own sentiments and current outlooks, without getting into excessive detail. This approach helps the viewer see and understand things from the character’s point of view.
It may happen to you: Rubén
The documentary, Te puede pasar a ti, follows a different narrative method, where part of Rubén’s story is the springboard for generating dialogue with other characters. Interaction occurs between Rubén and others with same sex attractions. This documentary certainly has a more explosive force than the other, as it is thought more for those who do not confront homosexuality in the same way. For this reason, some scenes may appear to be crude and forceful since they were intended for a specific public. These scenes may seem more suitable to a hostile environment, but they are quite effective. Rubén tells his story of miserable relationships and prostitution from early childhood. For years he lived wildly, without rules, until he decided to make a pact with God: he would stop his conduct in exchange for a job. God did something even more: He changes Rubén progressively; even after having discovered he had been suffering from AIDS.
Desire of Everlasting Hills
The other documentary spotlights three individuals: Paul, Dan and Rilene.
Paul admits to having had numerous partners throughout his wild and promiscuous life. One night while watching television, he calls over his companion Jeff to join him in laughing at a nun that looked like a pirate because of her eye patch. He doesn’t know that she was Mother Angelica who had suffered a severe stroke. While they are ridiculing her, Paul is deeply struck by something the nun said about God’s love towards his children. This is followed by a period in which Paul continues to turn to that television channel in secret in order to listen to Mother Angelic. God begins to enter into Paul’s life little by little, until one day he decides to go to a Catholic Church for confession.
Dan, on the other hand, tells of the anger and anguish he experienced each time he noticed the dome of the Church he would often pass by in his car. He begins a relationship with a man named Jason until, to his surprise, he finds himself attracted to a female colleague at work. He leaves Jason to begin a relationship with this girl, Kelly, until he finds out that she doesn’t want to have any children or a family. They separate after a year of dating, but when he decides to go after her, he discovers she is already dating another guy. He’s left profoundly dejected. But after a long journey, he sets out to find God. Each time he passes the dome of the Church, he now experiences God’s protection.
The third story tells us about Rilene, the 25 years she lived with her partner Margo, and the frustration she experienced when no guy had asked her out during her high school or college years. Initially, life was generous to her, thanks to her job and good economic condition. Their relationship also went well. However, as time went on, Rilene felt that something wasn’t right. She began to think that perhaps this feeling was caused by her inconvenient work situation, which obliged her travel a lot. Each time she would get back on the plane to return home after work in Atlanta, she would cry out of a deep interior solitude. Suddenly, everything began to turn sour: economic investments failed, she encountered various problems at work. This naturally led to tensions and deep crises in the relationship with her partner Margo. In 2008, Margo raises the possibility of getting a gay marriage in California. Rilene however decides to put an end to their relationship. Rilene’s loneliness persists and she realizes that she had been lonely the entire time. Her therapist spoke to her about a relationship with God. She ends up speaking to a priest, Father Bob, and begins to go back to her religious practices. As time passes, Margo is discovered to have cancer. Rilene decides to welcome Margo into her home in order to lovely care for her during the last months of her life. Even though Rilene didn’t want to return to her old lifestyle, she still loved Margo, though it was in a different way.
Orienting existence and the affective realm
How should one interpret the message of these two documentaries? These are life experiences to be shared with kindness, affection and simplicity, without impositions or judgments, though they touch difficult existential situations. Every story has a real protagonist, made of flesh and bones, and a whole array of contrasting feelings emanating from their heart. There are no recipes or easy solutions. One laughs, cries, suffers, and gets emotional. In the end, there is the joy of finally finding a personal God, through confession and encounters with other people. Their stories transmit emotion and peace: that peace of returning home, of the hope that must be transmitted to others, of finding a meaning to their affections and impulses that initially destroyed their characters. Knowing this whole interior world helps us to better listen to, understand, and accept people as they are, and help them discover a life of purity and peace through faith.