Two new mums navigate questions of intimacy and shifting power-dynamics in this heartfelt exploration of queer parenthood


Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your experience so far as an LGBTQIA+ filmmaker? 

I’m an ally. I come from a small, religious town in rural America where almost no one is openly gay, and there’s a mentality to “pray the gay away”.  Many of my good friends had to move away in order to come out. I care deeply about telling stories that help bring people together, and many of my films are intended to be a conversation starter between a divided country during extremely polarising times. I view American Parent as a universal story about a family. I know people from my hometown that will see the film to support me, and it might be the first LGBTQIA+ film they’ve ever seen. My writing partner, Doreen Bartoni, brought in her experience highlighting issues unique to married lesbian couples. I brought in my lens of motherhood, and together I think we found a nice balance connecting our experiences and also adding in elements of fiction.

What are three adjectives that capture your film’s spirit? 

Gritty. Feminist. Hopeful.

What inspired you to submit your film to BFI Flare and what does it mean to you? 

BFI Flare was our dream festival, and we are all elated that our film was selected to be a part of an amazing line up. It is truly such an honour.

Why do you think onscreen representation at BFI Flare is valuable for LGBTQIA+ audiences and allies? 

Onscreen representation is extremely important. Even though our society has come a long way in the last decade, there is still a lot of work that needs to continue. Being able to see oneself reflected on screen is a powerful way to connect people through storytelling.

Part of BFI Flare is the #FiveFilmsForFreedom initiative – five films are streamed for free for audiences globally. It invites everyone everywhere to show solidarity with LGBTQIA+ communities in countries where freedom and equal rights are limited. Why do you think this is important? 

I think that is an amazing initiative that will allow access to content that could be banned or restricted in certain regions. Storytelling is the way that we can empower people and make change.

Could you tell us a bit about your film and the themes it explores? 

American Parent follows a lesbian couple as their power dynamics shift after having a baby during the pandemic. COVID restrictions have ended and life is getting back to normal, but Bette and Elsie are struggling to pay their bills while balancing their relationship, careers, and motherhood responsibilities.  It explores relationships, family expectations, spirituality, and parenthood.

If you had to choose one film that inspired this feature, what would it be? 

I’m inspired by a lot of films, so it’s hard to single out one. If I had to single out a director it would be John Cassavettes. I filmed in a similar style to the films he improvised. Our script was very loose and most of the dialogue was improvised. If you watch until the very end of the credits we have a title card that explains the film was an improvisation in the same wording and font that Cassavettes used in Shadows.

What do you hope LGBTQIA+ audiences take away from the film? 

I hope they connect with the characters, and see their resilience through parenting responsibilities. It’s so common for couples to allow parenting responsibilities to create a distance in their relationship, and I hope the give-and-take between Bette and Elsie will offer a glimmer of hope to any parents struggling.

What is your favourite LGBTQIA+ film of all time? 

Generally, I hate saying there is a best of anything. There are so many inspiring films out there. However, if I had to say one, it would be Call Me By Your Name. Stylistically I love it. The performances are so strong, the locations are sexy, the soundtrack is great, and it’s visually so engaging.

Finally, what do you think are the next steps for LGBTQIA+ representation in the film industry?

I don’t have a magical answer that will solve everything. However, I think it comes down to money and producers. Our producer, Caro Posse, was dedicated to hiring an almost entirely female, LGBTQ or BIPOC crew. It was such a harmonious film set, and everyone on set commented on the energy and collaborative nature of things. However, we are a micro budget project that doesn’t have a financial impact on the industry. Major productions need to make efforts to support representation. Additionally, there should be more opportunities and training for LGBTQ filmmakers to become producers and have a say in what gets made.

AMERICAN PARENT receives its world premiere at BFI Flare on Monday 20 March, 20:15 and Tuesday 21 March at 18:15 and Sunday 26 March at 13:10. For further details go to the BFI Flare website.

DIVA magazine celebrates 28 years in print in 2022. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQIA media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable.

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