Monday, August 27, 2012

Love Is the Miracle: “The Miracles on Honey Bee Hill”

Film Short Review by Regina Robbins
What’s Millie to do? She’s a pillar of her community, loved and trusted by her neighbors, and especially by the members of her church. But Millie dearly wants to experience a special kind of love that friendship doesn’t provide. After many tearful nights, she takes initiative and puts herself out there on the Internet dating scene…and meets an amazing person. When they come face to face for the first time, Millie and Ed know they are soul mates, and after a joyful courtship, they decide to be married. There’s just one problem: Ed is also female. Poor Millie can’t believe it when her adoring “church family” condemn her relationship and threaten to cut her out of their lives if she continues her sinful lifestyle.

Am I describing a PBS documentary or a Lifetime original movie? No, this is the plot of The Miracles on Honey Bee Hill, a short film made at a Tennessee college and being shown at festivals around the country, and even internationally. Its subject matter may seem heavy, but the movie is actually a complete delight, shot on whimsical and colorful sets, incorporating music and comedy, and featuring a cast whose average age appears to be ten or eleven. That’s right, in a stroke of genius, this unabashedly pro-gay entertainment uses kids to convey its potentially controversial message. Structured like a fairy tale, Honey Bee Hill portrays a lesbian relationship (for the record, the word “lesbian” is never used) as innocent and natural, and looking into the sweet faces of Lucy Turner (as Millie) and Paige Glasser (as Ed) as they share their marriage plans with Millie’s congregation, it strikes you as cruel and ridiculous to accuse this couple of being an “abomination.” The disapproving church folk seem childish in their indignation…not least because they, too, are played by a spirited and diverse cast of youngsters. And the “miracles” of the title ensure a happy ending, despite the dour setup.

The Cast of Honey Bee Hill
Bob Pondillo, the film’s writer, director and narrator, is a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, where Honey Bee Hill was shot, and had a long career in television before that. He has received both praise and outrage in response to the movie, starting on his own campus and spreading across the U.S. as the film is screened (and wins awards) everywhere from Rhode Island to Ohio to California. Pondillo, who identifies as straight, says the issue isn’t about politics or sex: “Ultimately it's about caring, friendship and kindness, how can you be against that?” Sadly, plenty of people would disagree. The Miracles on Honey Bee Hill provides parents an excellent opportunity to start a discussion about marriage, religion and acceptance with their older kids (I would suggest age 7 and up); it’s also just plain adorable, and families will enjoy watching it together.

Lucy Turner as Millie
So how can you see this film? If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the towns where it’s scheduled to be shown this fall, you can go see it in person (check out their schedule at their website); if that’s not geographically convenient, it can be downloaded from Amazon. Mom, Dad, Grandma and Uncle Joe should watch it first so they can be prepared for some of the questions their kids might have (Why is the minister yelling at Millie? or Why do people live together before getting married? or Is it really okay to date people you meet on the Internet?); then get everyone together in front of the screen and prepare for laughter, a tear or two, and an important life lesson that it’s never too early to teach.

Regina Robbins is a theater and film artist. She has worked with several New York City stage companies, including Manhattan Theatre Source, the Looking Glass Theatre, UTC #61, and the Directors Company, and her films have been screened at venues in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Chicago, Asheville, and NYC. She also teaches kids how to write and perform, and is a four-time champion on the game show Jeopardy!

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