Documentarian Markie Hancock's Queers in the Kingdom: Let Your Light Shine will be featured at the Reeling LGBT Film Festival Sept. 20.
A prolific filmmaker, Hancock has produced both personal projects and contract work for education, non-profit and corporate entities for 18 years.
She spoke with Windy City Times about her life, career and evangelical Christianity as well as what people can expect from the documentary.
Windy City Times: Tell the readers about your new documentary, Queers in the Kingdom: Let Your Light Shine.
Markie Hancock: It's about LGBT survivors of Christian colleges, specifically focused on Wheaton College, where I went to school. The documentary goes beyond Christian colleges to explore the deep penetrating roots of evangelical Christianity in the United States, and how they sanction bible based homophobia and transphobia.
Wheaton College isn't an outlier. It's the tip of the iceberg. It's also considered the premiere Christian college and underneath it is this whole network of Christian colleges with a culture of persecuting LGBT students. Wheaton College is emblematic of evangelical resistance to LGBT people.
WCT: You're coming to Reeling. Do you have any other plans for the documentary while you're here. Where else will you be screening the documentary?
Markie Hancock: I was thrilled when Reeling32 accepted Queers in the Kingdom. The film will never get screened at Wheaton College and it's terrific to have the visibility so close to the campus. This is where it happened for so many of us, queer or straight
OneWheaton ( the LGBT and ally alumni group from Wheaton College ) member Dawn Marie Galtieri, the executive director of Voice in the City, will be moderating a Q&A at the Days Inn next to the theater immediately following the screening.
The film will be screened during OneWheaton's Homecoming celebration Oct. 4 at Glen Ellyn Arts Theatre and will also tour various other festivals down the road. It's also being distributed by Outcast Films.
WCT: The title grabs ones attention.
Markie Hancock: It started out as "Let Your Light Shine" but the more I worked on it the title felt too soft and Christian to me. I wanted the film to have a little edge to it so the title needed to reflect that. It's urgent. It matters. The motto for Wheaton College is "For Christ and His Kingdom". It doesn't matter which faith kingdom there are going to be queers there and the title makes that very clear.
WCT: What do you hope people will take away from the documentary?
Markie Hancock: I hope people will be inspired by the activism and energy of this new generation but I also want them to realize how serious this problem is. That's why I end the documentary with Anthea Butler saying that this isn't going to go away anytime soon. They aren't going to change their minds or their policies. It's an inspiring story but it's also a warning.
WCT: Your film focuses on Wheaton College. Did anyone say no to you? Did you consider interviewing LGBT alumni and officials from other evangelical colleges?
Markie Hancock: Wheaton College officials were the only ones who said no to me.
Yes, I started out wanting to do three schools; Biola College just outside of Los Angeles, Wheaton College and Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. Each of them have different histories and roots. We started the whole process and then I realized Wheaton's story was just too good and that's where the story and trajectory was. If I had done those other schools it would've felt more journalistic and less personal. I do give a nod at the end of the documentary that groups like OneWheaton are springing up at Christian colleges all across the country.
WCT: What do you think of the current stance that many evangelicals are taking regarding the LGBT community?
Markie Hancock: The film shows the intertwining of the rise of the evangelical right in conjunction with the rise of civil rights, women's rights and LGBT rights and how those two happened as the LGBT community started to assume a more public identity. Evangelicals had to react then and that's exactly what's happening now with evangelicals recognizing that LGBT exist but saying that they can't act on it which I think is worse. This isn't progress at all.
WCT: Talk about your time at Wheaton, your experiences growing up and how you became a filmmaker.
Markie Hancock: When I was at Wheaton [1977 to 1981] we had chapel four times a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. At 10:20, those chimes rang and everything stopped so we could all go to chapel and sit in our assigned seat. I think now it's three times a week but it's still the same atmosphere of seriousness.
This is where it's interesting generationally because when I was there I never heard anyone say the words "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual" [or] "queer." It wasn't a possibility and honestly I don't think I was aware of my identity then. It took me so long to realize my orientation. There was no one on campus that would in any way self-identify as LGB or T, well forget the T. Now you have these kids who say this is who I am and since students are being open now I think they've clamped down even more on campus.
My personal upbringing as an Evangelical Christian in a small town in Pennsylvania was perhaps a little extreme but I was fortunate that I wasn't homeschooled or sent to a Christian school prior to going to Wheaton.
I graduated with a degree in history but I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I went to Germany for three years to study theology after spending one year at the Princeton Theological Seminary but I was still so lost. While in Berlin, I went to the Berlin Film Festival and it piqued my interest. The great irony is when I got back to the U.S. it was a Wheaton College professor who I respected a lot that led me to filmmaking.
She sat me down on her couch and asked me to close my eyes and imagine what I wanted to do. I was never asked that question before and I was shocked because it never occurred to me that I could do what I wanted to do. My thoughts were I really liked the Berlin Film Festival and I even bought a little super 8 camera while I was in Berlin. I told her I wanted to make films so she got me an interview at Columbia College. I entered their film program but I didn't finish it. When I got enough tools under my belt I left and ventured out into the filmmaking world.
My first documentary was Born Again. It came out about seven years ago and did very well in the festival circuit. That film is very much my personal story of growing up evangelical and getting out of it and this film is in some ways a companion piece because it looks at the institutionalization of religion and how at this critical developmental stage in a person's life everything gets suffocated and/or stopped.
WCT: What are your plans going forward?
Markie Hancock: I'm working on a really fun project that will be released next year. It's about feral cats and a New York Philharmonic musician.
See www.hancockproductions.com for more information.
Check out Hancock's documentary at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 2:45 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.reelingfilmfestival.tix.com/Event.aspx .