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Filmmaker needed to tell moving story

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Morgan Jon Fox is not a documentary filmmaker – not in the least. But his current project “This is What Love in Action Looks Like,” is just that.

Zach Stark is the focus of the documentary “This Is What Love in Action Looks Like.” The film follows the riots that stemmed from Stark’s parents sending him to a “fundamentalist Christian” program to make him straight.

“There are stories that you just have to tell,” he says during a recent phone interview from his home in Memphis, Tenn. “I was in the right place at the right time.”

In the summer of 2005, 16-year-old Zach Stark wrote on his MySpace blog about his parents sending him to a “fundamentalist Christian” program that strives to turn gay teens straight.

The documentary follows the story of the teen’s local community standing up for their friend with daily protests at the facility in what would become an international news story. It also features several former clients of the organization who tell their personal stories about the time they spent within the program’s walls.

It will be screened at the Ninth Annual Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival on Sunday, Oct. 9. Fox will be in attendance for the screening.

“Zach went to the same high school that I went to,” he says. “I was studying film and took my camera down to the protests. I never had a clue that the story would blow up the way it did.”

With days of footage, Fox decided to edit it and make a movie.

“This all just ended up in my lap,” he explains. “I didn’t want to make a documentary, but I knew I had to tell the story.”

The film made its premiere in June, almost six years after the event happened.

“The documentary is a testament of the local community standing up for what’s right,” he says. “Working on the film affected my life in various ways. The younger generation is always described as being nonconfrontational. Yet in this situation we have young people standing up for what’s right. It just shows a different view of a society.”

Since the film’s debut, Fox has been able to attend a handful of screenings and is bombarded with praise from audiences.

“Having an opportunity to share that with other people has been very rewarding,” he says. “It can be a very powerful experience. The thing I wanted from this film is to be able to inspire others.”

Fox says its important to have a question-and-answer session after the film.

“This is a film that starts dialogue,” he says. “People have been coming out and telling their stories about being impacted by the movie.”

For six years, Fox lived this subject. At one point, it got too personal for him and he had to look elsewhere to find a group of editors that would help him finish the movie.

“These people weren’t close to the subject and really helped me get back on track,” he says. “They ended up trimming it down to three hours of raw footage.”

Fox explains after it was trimmed down, he had the daunting task of making sure all the facts were in place.

“This is a real situation that resonates on so many different levels,” he says. “I wanted for the film to be a part of the healing process. The film is no longer mine, it belongs to everyone who has had this s

truggle.”

Fox says the film finally has a distributor, TLA, which will market it after the festival circuit is done.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” he says. “I can honestly say that I will never do another documentary again.”

If you go
WHAT: “This is What Love in Action Looks Like”
WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9
WHERE: Southwest Film Center, Student Union Building on UNM campus
INFORMATION: Visit www.swglff.com for more information

 

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