“Pray Away” has found a home ahead of its world premiere at next month’s Tribeca Film Festival. Deadline reports that Netflix snagged rights to Kristine Stolakis’ conversion therapy doc and is planning an August release.
The film sees “former leaders of the ‘pray the gay away’ movement [contending] with the aftermath unleashed by their actions, while a survivor seeks healing and acceptance from more than a decade of trauma,” the source details. “In the 1970s, five men struggling with being gay in their Evangelical church started a bible study to help each other leave the ‘homosexual lifestyle.’ They quickly received over 25K letters from people asking for help and formalized as Exodus International, the largest and most controversial conversion therapy organization in the world. But leaders struggled with a secret: their own ‘same-sex attractions’ never went away. After years as Christian superstars in the religious right, many have come out as LGBTQ, disavowing the very movement they helped start.”
“Where We Stand,” “The Typist,” and “Balancing Act” are among Stolakis’ documentary shorts. “Pray Away” marks her feature-length doc debut.
“It took some time before I transitioned from being transfixed by the topic of conversion therapy or the ‘ex-gay movement’ to believing this topic could be a powerful documentary film,” Stolakis told us. “My own filmmaking practice starts in deep research. I have a background in cultural anthropology, and before I zone in on how I want to tell I story, I like to be steeped in the topic as much as I can.” She recalled, “My research eventually led me to former leaders who had since come out, denounced the movement, and are now working to stop it. This moment, of finding these former leaders’ online apologies, was when I transitioned from being a filmmaker with a seed of an idea to a director determined to make a film.”
Asked what advice she’d give other women directors, Stolakis shared, “I have seen time and time again brilliant female directors be taken half as seriously as their male counterparts. In our world, a woman’s ambition is so often seen as unearned bravado or selfishness, and our mistakes are seen as proof that we are unfit for the job — whereas a man’s ambition is seen as leadership, and their mistakes are seen as brave vulnerability. Don’t let that sexism shake you,” she emphasized. “Don’t internalize that message. It isn’t a reflection on you or the worth of your ideas — it is a reflection of the sexism that remains in our industry. And this judgement, this intimate manifestation of power and prejudice, makes our industry even harder for women of color, for LGBTQ directors, for people with disabilities. You have to jump twice as high, be three times as smart, and make half the mistakes. It’s unfair. Our industry has a lot of work to do to become truly fair and equitable.”
Tribeca Film Festival runs from June 9-20. “Pray Away” premieres June 16.