Those were three words used to describe director Andrew Haigh’s romantic movie Weekend. Released in the UK in 2011, the film was slated for release in Italian theaters to coincide with Haigh’s new film 45 Years. Unfortunately for pretty much anyone in Italy, the moral police put their foot down and told the 1,100 cinemas they own that the movie was not to be shown. By ‘moral police’, I mean the “lovely” organization we know as the Roman Catholic Church. As they own the vast majority of the theaters in Italy, the church uses the Italian Conference of Bishops’ Film Evaluation Committee to rate and/or censor films and they said the oppose they themes of the movie and its message. What could be so bad about the film?
Did I forget to mention that it’s a gay romantic movie?
The announcement has been particularly troubling for film distributor Teodora Film, who was responsible for acquiring Weekend for Italian audiences.
“They decided it was unacceptable, that it should be censored and they have used their power to paralyze the distribution,” Teodora Film president Cesare Petrillo told AFP.
He continued, “Normally a film like this would have been picked up by many of these cinemas. Instead there are whole regions and big cities like Florence, Bergamo and Padova where we have not been able to get it put on. And the only reason for that is that the main characters are gay.”
Sigh. Once again the Catholic Church uses its power to marginalize gay people. On its own, it is frustrating that the Bishop’s committee get to decide what the people of Italy can and cannot see in theaters. Why should they have such power? Why should their tastes and interests trump those of the citizens of Italy? In the case of a movie like Weekend, it is doubly maddening because they [presumably] oppose the film on moral grounds. This is an organization, remember, that has long had a problem with priests sexually molesting children. Their handling of the problem has been (and still is) ghastly, as Church officials continually opt to place the image of the Church above the welfare of the victims. From moving priests to different locations in lieu of any punishment, to silencing victims, to refusing to cooperate with authorities, officials at the Catholic Church have acted in a manner that is anything but moral. They have no claim to any moral high ground and certainly are not in the position to legitimately dictate what constitutes moral or immoral actions and behaviors.
Ahem. Sorry. Needed to vent a bit.
With some free time on my hands last night and curious about the movie, I skipped on over to Netflix which thankfully has the film. I was pleasantly surprised. The movie is a look into the whirlwind, weekend romance between two gay men: Russell (played by Tom Cullen) and Glenn (played by the quite nice looking Chris New). After a night with his straight friends, Russell picks up Glenn at a local gay bar for a one-night stand. Given the comments of the Bishop’s committee, I figured Haigh was going to film Russell and Glenn’s night together like some sort of adult movie complete with shots of erections and anal sex. To my surprise, not only did he *not* do so, he completely skipped over their initial sexual encounter. The movie cuts from the two of them at the bar to the next morning, when we see a hung over Russell and Glenn having a conversation about the night before. During the course of their talk (in which we learn the pair did not “go all the way”), Glenn reveals that he’s doing an art project-making testimonials from the men he’s had sex with. During their talk, it becomes quickly apparent that Russell is not fully out of the closet and is not comfortable discussing sex, while Glenn is out and more than willing to discuss his sexual tastes. The tragedy of the movie is that Glenn is moving to the United States on Monday to complete his master’s program.
Most of the film follows the two over the course of the weekend and we see the bond between the pair strengthen as they do drugs, have more intense sexual encounters, and have conversations about identity politics. The latter is the hook that really made the movie work for me. Contrary to the whining of the Bishop’s, this movie isn’t ‘about’ gay sex. Nor is it ‘about’ drugs. It is a romance, yes. But just as importantly, Weekend presents frank and honest discussions of important political and identity issues to people in the gay community, which something rarely seen in films. Haigh avoids using the movie as a platform to preach a specific position, choosing instead to allow the characters to present differing perspectives on topics like coming out, sexual roles, and marriage. By the end of the film, I was left with the feeling that Andrew Haigh was a solid director with a good grasp on issues of importance to the gay community. It’s a shame the Catholic Church flexed its censorship muscles and prevented most theaters in Italy from playing the film. As the world revolves around the tastes and interests of heterosexual people so often, I’m sure many in the Italian gay community would like to see a movie that places the focus squarely on them. For now, unfortunately, they’ll have to settle for watching Weekend on Netflix .