After having its world premiere at SXSW, the LGBTQ+ feature-length documentary Mama Bears is currently making its festival rounds and will screen at Outfest on July 22. Variety reports that the first trailer gives viewers a peek of the struggles women have had in overcoming religious stigma in order to accept themselves or their LGBTQ+ offspring.
Mama Bears is based on a Facebook group of mothers who wished to spread love without compromising their faith, arguing that the two concepts are not mutually contradictory and highlighting the value of perspective and understanding. The teaser, which was directed and produced by Emmy winner Daresha Kyi, begins with stained-glass church windows and a woman reading scripture while sipping coffee.
The woman is Kimberly Shappley, a former “Tea Party Republican,” mother of the transgender daughter Kai, and one of the people Mama Bears chronicles who now works to ensure the safety and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Sara Cunningham, a mom from the Midwest, is featured in the video declaring her love for her faith and her very personal convictions, and describing how those very values were what simultaneously led to her acceptance of and helped create the “Free Mom Hugs” movement during pride parades. Tammi Terrell Morris is another person whose story is highlighted in Mama Bears.
The rigid upbringing in “fundamentalist, evangelical” Christian homes caused each of the ladies in the documentary to struggle to accept the queer community. By showing the ways a mother’s life changes in the face of challenging conservative Christian doctrines, Kyi’s documentary intends to present a distinctive viewpoint of the modern world’s journey toward acceptance.
“It was really hard to find another Christian that I could relate to until I met the Mama Bears,” a lady is heard saying in the trailer before going on to talk about how the support group inspired her to advocate for the fundamental human rights of the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to feedback from queer people who have benefited from the Free Hugs movement when their own families disowned them, the trailer includes comments from other women who have experienced exclusion from their Christian communities, including friends and family, simply for affirming the existence of their children.
After producing for Chavela, Laura Tatham is back to work with Kyi on Mama Bears, while Austin-based filmmaker Amy Bench is the director of photography. Mama Bears will be screened on July 22 at the Outfest Film Festival and on July 28 and 29 at the Traverse City Film Festival.