Entertainment » Television

Southern Pride

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jun 11, 2019
'Southern Pride'
'Southern Pride'  

For his fifth documentary, queer Canadian filmmaker Malcolm Ingram has returned to the American South, where he shot his award-winning "Small Town Gay Bar" in 2006, Now he is back in two small towns in Mississippi on the Gulf Coast for "Southern Pride," which looks at the state of the LGBTQ community just after Trump's election in 2016.

We hear first from Lynn Koval, a white, middle-aged lesbian whose bar Just Us in the small town of Biloxi is the oldest in the state. She is a tough matriarch with a heart of gold who will, without any hesitation, give the only money she has in her cash register to a customer in desperate need, even though the bar itself is always on the brink of its own financial crisis.

When Biloxi was all but wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, the bar, like the rest of the town, had to be completely rebuilt. Seeing Koval in action, you begin to realize that she took it all in stride despite the fact of how very tough day-to-day life is in this economically depressed area.

Here, right in the middle of a Trump-supporting state that is the home of an extremely ingrained Bible Belt culture, simply being as an out gay person is a challenge. Even more so for the transgender bartender that Koval has taken under her wing and protected so that, at least within the walls of Just Us, she can feel safe.

With the alt-right getting bolder and more active in the state, Koval decides the only way to fight back is to organize their very first Gay Pride. With no money at all, and little chance of any sponsorship, the first community meeting to discuss the event is a total shambles; several people present at the meeting are scared that the event would result in violent repercussions for the community.

Korval is undeterred even when the first fundraisers are total disasters. Her passion and enthusiasm are infectious and gets them all through many tough times, but her micro-management actually risks jeopardizing other people's involvement at times.

Ingram also takes his cameras to Hattiesburg, and to the only gay club there, an establishment run by a fierce African-American lesbian named Shawn Perryon. Her clientele is almost 100% black, so her concerns are not just the rampant homophobia in town but also overt and aggressive racism. Perryon is organizing what she has titled the "Unapologetic Black Gay Pride," an event that's meant to promote unity among the black community overall, but also the black LGBTQ community.

Against all the odds (including a major tropical storm the day before), Korvak and her team pull Southern Pride off, and it is an unqualified success. The local LGBTQ community comes out in force, as does Shawn Perryon, and the two bar owners/activists meet for the very first time. They agree that the next step is to bring the white and black LGBT communities together, and, left in their capable hands, we can feel confident that this will happen.

Watching the story unfold simply re-emphasizes what a tough life these people endure to live in a community and state that most of them still love regardless of their circumstances. What privileged LGBT communities in other parts of the country take for granted is noticeably absent here.

Ingram highlights the natural resilience of the community that emulates their leaders' energy and determination and seeing the beaming grins on everyone's faces as they pack up after the first ever Southern Pride makes up for a helluva lot.

P.S. One of the people that popped up in this documentary was Rick Gladish, the owner of Rumours, one of the gay bars featured in "Small Town Gay Bar." Rumours has now been closed, and the building converted into a Baptist church.

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.

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