"O what a tangled web we weave" ... In "Children of God" (Bahamas 2009, 103 minutes), Kareem Mortimer, a film maker who comes from the Bahamas and makes his full-length feature debut with this film, shares a real view of an island we mostly know from vacations. Basing this story somewhat on "Romeo and Juliet," with a twist, he makes us participants in the story of another Romeo-a handsome young family oriented gay man, played by Stephen Tyrone Williams-who falls for Johnny-a young white artist, who needs to connect his passion with his genius technique, played by Johnny Ferro. Each man must find his way and, as sometimes happens, they find one another.
Woven in with the stories of each man's struggle is that of Lena (Margaret Laurena Kemp), a pastor's wife. Although there is much anger and violence against homosexual behavior in the Caribbean, there are dozens of men on the down-low. And when Lena, faithful until death Lena, is diagnosed with a venereal disease, you know there is something amiss in Denmark. They all meet on the mail boat from Nassau to Eleuthera and then the fun begins.
Romeo's first service to Johnny, whom he remembers from when they were younger, is to help him through the dilemma of a manual transmission. Johnny's art professor has given him the keys to her studio and car in Eleuthera, giving him instructions to connect to his passion and not to return till he's gone to the mystical Lighthouse Point. It's a vision quest, in island style, as it is a difficult place to get to, and she instructs him to paint what he sees there.
Meanwhile, Lena takes a trip to Eleuthera with her son to visit another minister. Her husband Ralph (Richard Ford) has accused her of fooling around, when, in fact, the first thing he does, when his family is gone, is look for trade. Compounding this hypocrisy is, that when he's not pounding other men, he's pounding his pulpit about the dangers and the ills of homosexuality.
Romeo takes Johnny on a quest that helps him face everything he's anxious about. When Romeo teaches him that to float, Johnny must relax, it's not only a key moment in the film, it's also an arch reference to the short film "Float" that Kareem Mortimer shared with audiences in 2008.
Beautiful cinematography and the poignant reminder of the grace there is in moments make for a memorable experience here. Joy may be found everywhere: just float sometime and you'll find it.
"Children of God" has its Philadelphia premiere screenings at the Ritz East, 125 South Second Street, thanks to QFest, the LGBT film festival, on July 16 at 9:30 p.m., in Theater Two, and 18 at 4:45 p.m., in Theater One. QFest runs through July 19. Visit http://www.qfest.com for further information.