SAINTS AND SINNERS(director/writer/producer/editor: Abigail Honor; cinematographer: Yan Vizinberg; music: Michael Picton; cast: Edward DeBonis, Vincent Maniscalco, Rev. Raymond Lefebvre; Runtime: 71; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Yan Vizinberg; Persona Films/Avatar Films; 2004)
“It’s a warm, gentle and humorous film, that does justice to the touchy subject it covers.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Saints and Sinners is a straightforward and earnest documentary that weighs in with intelligent insights on the recent controversy over gay and lesbian unions. After living together for seven years in a luxury apartment in the gentrified Chelsea section of New York City, Edward DeBonis and Vincent Maniscalco decide to get married. They wish to get married in the Catholic Church, but find that the church denies them that right even though they are both devout Catholics.
Edward met Vincent while playing pool at a bar on Christopher Street in NYC’s Greenwich Village. Their relationship developed through their mutual involvement in Dignity New York, an organization of gay Catholics who seek to keep to the religious practices of the faith while maintaining their right to live as openly gay adults–something the Catholic Church does not accept.
With no chance to get married in a Catholic Church the couple settles on St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan, rearranging the stuff of what was a working construction site and inviting Reverend Raymond Lefebvre, a gay Catholic priest, to perform the ceremony including the Catholic Mass at the altar. The sincere couple want their marriage to be respected, as they make plans to ensure that everything turns out right. They choose their own music (an Ella Fitzgerald song “You Keep Coming Back Like A Song”), send out personally inscribed wedding invitations to both families, request The New York Times to announce their wedding in the weekly “Styles” section, rent a banquet hall to seat over a hundred guests for the reception, take dance lessons so as not to step on their toes at the reception and get outfitted in fancy wedding garb where even choosing the right tie is fussed over.
In the process, complications arise to their marriage plans. Some family members were fearful of going to hell for receiving communion from a gay priest in an Episcopal Church, while another worried about being kicked out of their local church for participating in the ceremony. The New York Times was antsy in publishing the first Catholic gay wedding announcement, as their editors raised some controversial questions: Is a gay priest an official priest? Can a gay union be called a wedding? Can a gay couple be considered Catholic?
Abigail Honor’s distinguished feature clearly shows that the couple is sincere and as worthy of marriage as any heterosexual couple. The film makes sure to point out that these gay men realized at an early age they were gay or, if you will, different from other men, that it would be impossible to deny it or to push it down or to not be who you really are. As the film explores the social, political and religious aspects of same-sex marriage and examines its effects on American society, it becomes apparent that only irrational or hateful arguments against same-sex marriages can be made. The film does a good job of debunking all the Catholic dogma that lacks a more Christlike spirit. I was left with the impression that the loving couple were the real Christians and their foes were only pretending to be Christians. The boys were frustrated in their every attempt to get married in the Roman Catholic Church because worshipers are told to follow tradition and church doctrine as they are instructed to by the hierarchy.
Saints and Sinners is a beautifully realized true romance film that plainly makes the case that all this earnest gay couple is asking, is to have the same rights as everyone else when it comes to love and marriage. After seeing the film, if there were doubts about same-sex marriages, it becomes more difficult to reason why same-sex couples shouldn’t legally tie the knot either in a civil or religious ceremony. It’s a warm, gentle and humorous film, that does justice to the touchy subject it covers. The message of love that the couple genuinely espouses is something the church authorities need to learn more about before they speak in the name of Christ and willfully condemn a community whose only crime is that they don’t fit in with current church thinking.
REVIEWED ON 5/29/2004 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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