Presented by: The Carpenter Program at Vanderbilt Divinity School
Free dinner at 5:30pm, film screening at 6:30pm followed by a panel dialogue with Emily Maynard.
Who can we be fully honest with? Our friends? Our pastors? Ourselves?
Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (Dir: Stephen Cone / 87 min)explores the question of honesty and depicts the tension between the illusory and the real.
This emotive independent feature film unfolds over the course of a single day as it follows the interconnected, joyous, and painful moments in the life of Henry Gamble.
We learn a great deal about Henry in the first five minutes of this movie. He runs a podcast about great music, he is celebrating his 17th birthday, and he is gay. He is, however, not fully honest with others - or even himself - about his same-sex attractions, a fact made more complicated because he is the son of an evangelical megachurch pastor.
Henry is hosting a day-long birthday pool party at his house in the suburbs of Chicago, and it is through the small interactions - the prayer requests, the “Praise the Lords!” and the invitations to church camp - that this movie slowly builds a holistic world that depicts evangelical suburban life.
The film is not really about Henry, at least not exclusively. It is about the way that church communities talk about - and don’t talk about - sex, sexuality, and grief. These themes play out as the thin veneer of pseudo-perfection quickly disappears in the light of unblinking honesty. As lies, rumors, and sadness circulate around the fringes of this birthday party, the film forces us to stare at the painful results of repression and resentment. The film gifts viewers with moments of celebration when vulnerable communication does take place, sometimes with the help of a little red wine smuggled into a stuffy gathering.
What helps this film shine is the space it creates for moments of reflection, using creative cinematography and an immersive soundtrack to infuse temporal moments with transcendent impact. It is a bold and effective film, and we hope to watch it with the challenge - and opportunity - of honesty in mind.