June 22, 2016 by Liza Lou
The art of the documentary is sometimes more therapeutic for me than films. Although I love the escapism I can get from somebody’s made up story documentary is more real and therefore more grounding. I practice mindfulness whenever I can and watching something knowing that it isn’t all fantasy re-connects me with the earth. It reminds me that life continues for other people even if I am not living it myself and whats morethat those people face struggles and hardship bigger than my own.
After the recent Horrific events in Orlando I felt compelled to write about this specific documentary because it covers the subject of being gay and being accepted. I believe in true equality, self-love and mutual respect. I am also not naive enough to know that as a society we will never be a place where perceived difference doesn’t matter and isn’t persecuted. That said, one should never stop hoping or fighting for what we believe to be truth and my heart goes out to all the Orlando victims and their families.
‘Gayby Baby’ is set and filmed in Australia and follows the life of four kids whose parents all happen to be gay. We are introduced to each child and their families at learning points in their lives and continue to watch them as they both experience happy times and face challenges. It is the brain child of director Maya Newell who herself comes from a same-sex family background and in all honesty, it’s pretty good.
The formula is basic in the documentary field and this one doesn’t stray far from the path. Short interviews with various people snap between ‘in life’ action shots while thoughtful voice overs sit amidst a dreamy music score. It’s conventional in it’s very core and yet it is covering a subject perceived not to be in a way that stops it from feeling hum drum. What is does do is allow the viewer to explore the idea of same sex parenting while peaking in at four completely different situations, children and parenting styles.
Gus is the first child we meet and one of my favourites. He loves wrestling and is seen throughout as typically male despite only being a young mite. He is very clever though and able to articulate not only his point of view but he can back it up too. His lesbian parents were least likable to me, at least at the start. They seemed to be (quite forcibly) pushing more feminine ways of thinking on to him and it made me uncomfortable. In a documentary made to celebrate freedom and choice having a little boy be told that he should act a certain way (when his own way hurt no one) didn’t sit right with me.
Ebony also had lesbian parents and is a budding singer. She is getting herself ready to audition for an art based school. Her younger brother is suffering from seizures though so her story flips back and forth through the terrain of family stresses.
Matt was the most interesting to me. When we meet him he is living with his two mums and definitely sees their love for each other and him as normal and good. He is of christian faith but starts to question it because of its disagreement with same-sex couples. He also can’t understand why is mum still follows a God that ultimately condemn her, when all he wants his acceptance for everyone.
And finally we have Graham, who is the only one of the four with two dads. He struggles with his literacy and has just moved to a new school. Determined to help him, his dads do everything in their power to try to undo a problem that was created before they got chance to adopt him.
For the most part Newell tries to keep the subject matter as unpolitical as possible. Instead the focus really is on four families who are just going about their business. It all comes across as pretty normal, which I guess is the preferred reaction. Parenting is parenting and as long as it is done correctly and to the best of your ability who the heck cares who is doing it right? Thing is, lots of love shines through here too and for me that’s what shines the spotlight on the fact that we are looking at same sex couples.
In particular with Graham and his two dads it is plain to see that he is loved beyond belief. Now it may be that he is adopted or my pure ignorance but seeing someone so so loved, I found myself thinking his two dads did that. I am probably not explaining this very well but I hope you get my drift and I don’t come across as the biggest moron in the UK. What I mean is that I sometimes forgot that I was watching a documentary about same sex parenting and it was moments like this that helped me remember.
Of course, there is more to it all than that. Newell has obviously crafted together hours and hours of footage and we only see just less that one and a half. Each child (and their family) deal with certain stigma attached to their situations but it never seems the main point. Instead what is left is a portrayal of children growing up with whoever is bringing them up and doing whatever is making them happy. It teaches us that neither straight sex or same sex parenting is flawless, that children are both cruel but also resilient and it also teaches us that when we are younger the world deals us many questions.
Just go watch it and let me know what you think…