BFI Flare LGBTQ+ Film Festival ’18 Review: ‘The Revival’ is a necessary, if imperfect, take on the rocky relationship between religion and homosexuality

Jennifer Gerber’s debut feature is a piece that will certainly provoke a powerful reaction. Described as an intense emotional drama, ‘The Revival’ explores the tensions between Southern Baptist Christianity, modern life, and gay relationships with a blunt edge that will be too much for some – but may be necessary for many.

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Raymond McAnally, Stephen Ellis, David Rysdahl, and Kathleen Suit in The Revival (2017) © Natural Slate Films

In the age of Trump and a new kind of right-wing radicalism, a film of this topic feels eerily relevant; the film’s setting is a small town in Arkansas, populated largely by Evangelical Christians, and a post-screening Q&A revealed that 70% of this town voted for Trump in real life. Our protagonist, Eli, is a pastor who wishes to transform the way that his congregation views religion. Eli cannot stand the way that modern Christians twist their faith to suit themselves and aims to educate against the use of God to justify wrongdoing. He’s fully engaged in his faith, with just one problem; he’s gay, and must fight against his own hypocrisy when rugged drifter Daniel saunters into his life.

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