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Alabama Bound (NewFest)

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Oct 15, 2017
Alabama Bound (NewFest)

Married lesbian couple Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, who live with their son in Mobil, say that their friends always ask "Why Alabama? You must be crazy." 

It is the exact same question that any LGBTQ person will probably also ask at the beginning of the compelling new documentary "Alabama Bound," which tells the story of their lives and that of another lesbian couple who have to deal with intransigence and unabashed homophobia in this, the most conservative state in the U.S. However, what we initially perceive will be a tale of helplessness turns out in the end to be a story of how hope, love, and sheer determination can still make Alabama the right place for these particular families to call home.

Cari and Kim's problems started with the birth of their son, who suffers a congenital heart condition. Kim is denied any involvement in his treatment as a co-parent. Then, using the fact that her California marriage to Ceri is not recognized by Alabama, a judge denies her the right to be able to adopt him. This starts a journey of nearly a decade through the court system, which gives them some victories along the way but is of little help when officials refuse to comply with the rulings.

Meanwhile, the story of another female couple unfolds sin parallel. When Kinley separates from the birth father of her child, he easily wins full custody of their son once his lawyer told the court that Kinley is a lesbian. She and her wife Autumn then have to go through appeals to right the situation. The situation is surreal at times: Even when the boy has to be hospitalized because his stepmom has whipped him so hard, the judge treats Kinley in court in a way that suggests that, to him, a lesbian is far worse than a child abuser. It takes her almost two years for Kinley to win the case and be able to keep her son, but as the final credits roll there is a cautionary note: The father is still trying to challenge the decision.

These two stories are sandwiched around the tale of Patricia Todd, a charming lesbian who gets elected as the first openly gay state representative in Alabama, and the lone legislative voice of its LGBTQ community. Todd, ever a pragmatist, works hard to personally win over as many of the ultra-conservatives of the House as she can in her attempt to stop a flow of potential anti-LGBTQ legislation becoming law in her state, and bristles when her colleagues tell her "not to take it personally" as they seek to diminish LGBT rights. 

Like the others in this documentary, Todd is inspirational, although in her case it comes at a personal cost when she chooses her political career over her marriage. It may not be enough to want anyone to pack up their bags and move to this part of the Deep South, especially whilst Judge Roy Moore is still hovering around, but it is now very clear why these women are still happy to call Alabama home.

"Alabama Bound" is directed by Lara Embry & Carolyn Sherer, and will have its world premiere at Frameline Film Festival. It's highly recommended.

Appearing at NewFest. For tickets and more information: http://newfest.org

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.


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