BEYOND CONVERSION, 46min., New Zealand, Documentary
Directed by Loren Prendiville
BEYOND CONVERSION is an intimate look at the fight to ban conversion practices in Aotearoa. It follows a bill many thought would pass unanimously but was in-fact highly contested, prompting the largest number of public submissions in New Zealand's legislative history. This powerful story is told through the voices of Kiwi survivors, who have laid themselves bare to shed light on the impacts of conversion practices. The film explores the complexities of this divisive issue, along with the spectrum of voices and opinions that came to light during the political process. BEYOND CONVERSION is a moving, nuanced conversation about religious freedom, personal identity and the meaning of choice.
BEYOND CONVERSION is a film that’s close to my heart. As a proud queer person and having grown up in a religious environment, I was compelled to bring to light the traumatic experiences of those in my community. I believe these stories need to be heard for us to collectively understand the harm these practices can cause.
I am indebted to our phenomenal truth speakers who have bared all for this feature and also to my fellow film making team. It’s my hope that this film will create conversations amongst families and communities about the importance of celebrating our diversity and protecting our most vulnerable – regardless of our beliefs.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
Since the moment I first learnt that conversion practices were still legal in New Zealand, I knew I wanted to make some version of this film. Especially living in a country that prides itself on our progressive LGBTQ+ legislation and having the 'queerest parliament' in the world currently, it didn't make sense to me that these torturous practices were still allowed. On a personal level, being a queer person who grew up in a religious environment, I was especially motivated to give a platform to those in my community that were fighting for change.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
The idea for the film had been swimming around in my head for a couple of years, but from the time I was actively looking for funding to completion was about a year and a half.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
Powerful and enlightening
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
From a logistical perspective, covid of course played a big part in our abilities to film certain things. However, that did force us to think creatively about how we could show certain aspects of the journey (the oral submissions, for example) which I believe actually made the film stronger in the end. On a personal level, being a queer person diving into such a difficult topic affecting those in my community added a layer of responsibility I felt to get it right - which again, I think helped the film, but also sometimes acted as a bit of an obstacle.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
It was really special to hear the audience feedback videos. The film is quite specifically about an issue and moment in history happening in New Zealand, so it was really heartening to hear the impact the film has the potential to have outside of NZ as well. I felt like the audience really understood where we wanted to take them with the film, and appreciated the nuanced approach we took in talking about a complex issue.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
Filmmaking hasn't always been the goal for me. My background in psychology, my love of storytelling and my desire to make a difference kind of all lead me unexpectedly into the world of documentary filmmaking. I would say it's more my deep curiosity for people and real stories that drive me, and I am continuously learning about how to use filmmaking as the vehicle for that.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
I don't know what this says about me but it would have to be Castaway. My sister gave me the VHS for my birthday when I was 10 and I must have watched it at least 50 times haha.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
The LGBTQ+ Los Angeles Film Festival did a great job of making sure I was kept up to date with happenings and following through with what they promised. Perhaps more opportunities to connect with the other filmmakers included in the festival would be a cool way to form relationships with other like-minded creatives.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
It's really simple to use, I like that they make it really easy to see everything in one place. Without that personal communication with each festival however, it's difficult to be sure if anyone is seeing the info and personal communication you are sending out into the abyss. So while I do love the simplicity of it, it would be amazing to get a little more reassurance as a filmmaker that people are actually reading what you are writing to them.
10. What is your favorite meal?
Tacos! I reckon I could eat them every day.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
Hopefully! I am busy developing a few new ideas for my own films, whilst helping other's with their projects in more of a producing capacity.