Metro Weekly

Equality U

Reel Affirmations 2009

Review by Tim Plant

Rating: starstarstarstar (4 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!]
Friday, 10/23/2009, 5:00 PM
Feature presentation, $0 at Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center for the Arts

THE THRESHOLD for finding any real inspiration in the gay movement is high these days, but goddammit all if a group of kids on a bus aren’t enough to stoke a few coals of excitement in our otherwise jaded worldview.

Equality U follows 34 youths who boarded a bus in Washington, D.C. in 2006 for the Soulforce Equality Ride and set out to visit universities where being gay is a punishable offense. They stopped at such hotbeds of college activity and co-ed craziness as Liberty University and Brigham Young University. With cameras in tow like a gaggle of Real World stars, these kids weren’t in it for the fame or the glory — they actually felt like their actions could make a difference and were willing to take a risk to help others.

Some schools are welcoming, some arrest the students as soon as they step foot on campus. Interwoven into nearly every discussion is the role of religion in the gay community — both as a force for good and evil. While many of the riders talk about their faith, it’s rarely preachy and provides insight into their motivations and drives.

Captured with high quality footage, Dave O’Brien focuses on a handful of the riders, showing their ups and downs on the road. Jake Reitan, one of the leaders, is the most fervent in the bunch, sometime bringing a little too much enthusiasm to the plan (hard to imagine being with him on a bus for two months). The others are more muted in their interactions, but all bring a quiet force to their work.

Equality U is utterly inspiring. Most of the riders can’t understand why change isn’t possible now. And maybe they’re right. Maybe it’s time they started driving the movement bus, because it seems like they’re headed in the right direction.

Equality U
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