A documentary purported to be a simple, biographical-sketch of Christian singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan re-opens Pandora’s box on an age-old debate concerning homosexuality. Could this film be politically motivated? You decide.
Jacob Kindberg’s documentary, Sing Over Me, chronicles Dennis Jernigan’s life from the time he was a little boy, to the present. This is done primarily with the camera on Jernigan as he details his experiences in his own words—along with footage of Jernigan as he performs his own Christian music—with or without an audience. A smaller amount of external analysis from friends and family members fill in the movie’s remainder of time.
What we learn from Sing Over Me is that Jernigan lived a guilt-ridden, tortured existence as a gay child and man, up until the time he embraced Jesus Christ. From there, he denounced homosexuality as his personal disease, spiritually cleansed according to Christian law, married a woman, and had nine children.
No matter what your reaction to Jernigan’s biography, two things are for certain: 1. You will be held captive for 85-minutes of your life, unless you choose to flee the theater, and 2. You will have a strong reaction, unless you are in absolute agreement with Jernigan’s mindset.
What provokes the controversy in Kindberg’s completely “character” driven movie, is why Jernigan feels the need to tell live audiences, and now cinema-viewers, his life’s story. Furthermore, he tells his tale much like the Ancient Mariner, in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s long form poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (i.e. as a man obsessed).
According to Dennis Jernigan, he is finally living the monumentally happy life of his dreams. He feels the need to share his experiences with others in order to help them find their way with Jesus Christ. But the nagging, highly provocative side-question of whether or not homosexuality is an illness to be cured— by God, Christianity, or some other method— remains.
So as you can see, there will be a loud response to Kindberg’s little film, provided it’s distributed and screened outside of Jernigan’s like-minded community, and that in itself is a good thing. But does Sing Over Me work as a successful movie?
Naturally, that question can only be answered by the viewers who see the film. As for my thoughts, I find Sing Over Me much too long for the film’s content and mission. I also wonder if there is more to Jernigan’s goal in sharing his experiences than what he proclaims, but as I said, the latter is not necessarily a flaw.
I’m also curious about Kindberg’s true aim in making this movie, and whether or not I can believe that it was strictly to document a life. But of course, that question concerns documentaries in general, and is fodder for another argument entirely. In closing, I recommend Sing Over Me, if for nothing else than to get the intellectual juices flowing.
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