By Michael O'Loughlin
Originally published on Advocate.com February 25 2014 2:36 PM ET
Two evangelical Christians hope the power of film will start a conversation around LGBT issues in evangelical churches, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Chelsea McInturff and Samantha Curley have raised $40,000 to launch the Level Ground film festival, which bills itself as filling "an important niche in both the film festival circuit and the wider national dialogue around faith, sexuality, and gender."
Going on now through Saturday, the festival is screening 31 films in Pasadena, Calif., including Bridegroom, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, and Reconciliation.
The film festival is the result of efforts by students at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, the world's largest evangelical seminary, who founded an LGBT rights student organization and used film to start conversations about LGBT issues on campus. McInturff, who identifies as gay, and Curley, a straight ally, then decided to expand the conversations, and they hope the festival will "be among the world’s leading LGBT, independent film, and art house festivals," notes Level Ground's website.
"There's been so much polarization, so much anger," Curley told the Times. "A lot of us are looking for a way to move beyond the pain this issue has caused. We hope to find a way to reconcile and find common ground without judgment."
Last year the student group held a five-film festival, and its success paved the way for this year's much larger one. Films are accompanied by panels of artists, researchers, and theologians as well as various art exhibits and discussion sessions.
"We believe there is a more sustainable, gentler way to speak across our diferences," McInturff and Curley said in a press release. "Out of this belief we created Level Ground as a national organization to host this new kind of dialogue. Level Ground is a space that is only safe as we each risk submitting our comforts, fears, vulnerabilities, and assumptions to one another. This is not always a convenient, or even comfortable way of communicating. Coming to level ground means learning to disagree with a better rhetoric that maintains relationship over ideology,"