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United Church of Christ's 'Call Me Malcolm' premieres at two international film festivals

United Church News


A UCC-produced, feature-length documentary about a transgender seminarian's struggle with faith, love and gender identity was among the top-attended films at two recent international film festivals.

Call Me Malcolm - described as a "labor of love" by its creators and producers - debuted at the Riverside (Calif.) International Film Festival on Feb. 26 and the Cleveland International Film Festival, March 14-15.

The 90-minute documentary tells the story of Malcolm E. Himschoot, then a third-year student at Iliff School of Theology, who was eventually ordained in 2004 by the UCC's Denver Metropolitan Association.

In Riverside, the film's popularity warranted the addition of a second screening.

In Cleveland, a sell-out situation prompted festival organizers to hold simultaneous screenings in two of the cinema's largest theatres. It also received first-runner-up recognition by festival goers who ranked it as one of their top two favorite films.

The Rev. Michael D. Schuenemeyer, the UCC's minister for LGBT concerns, says Call Me Malcolm is unique among documentaries that deal with transgender issues "because it focuses on gender identity as it relates to matters of faith, spirituality, vocation and human personhood."

Schuenemeyer says, "With enormous heart, integrity and sensitivity, Malcom shares his own struggles and listens compassionately to [others], as he comes to terms with who he is and God's claim on his life."

Director Joseph Parlagreco of Filmworks, Inc., which co-produced the film, says the documentary is more than an examination of Malcolm's life or the struggles of the transgender community, but a film that all can relate to, because it's about discerning, discovering and celebrating one's identity.

"This is not the first film to take on the subject of transgender issues and it certainly will not be the last," Parlagreco says, "but most transgender films tend to focus on the physical and exploit the conflict. I wanted to do a different kind of film. This is a film about identity."

Parlagreco, an award-winning cinematographer whose directing credits include work for ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS and VH1, says the UCC has served as a "minister to the film."

"Imagine," Parlagreco muses, "a church producing a feature documentary for film festivals -- about a transgender minister."

The film's successful premiere likely means it will be considered for inclusion in other prominent film festivals, a good omen for finding a willing distributor - the ticket to wide theatrical release.

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