New York filmmaker Rick Flynn addresses and exposes the daunting realities that exist for LGBT abroad in his debut feature documentary “Golf Alpha Yankee.”
The film documents LGBT life in Iran and depicts the war on terror gay Iranians face in their daily lives. In Iran, police and others flog, imprison and, sometimes even, execute citizens for publicly displaying affection towards someone of the same-sex. Flynn states, “It's insane how love between two men or two womencan cause such hate.”
Flynn, in his documentary, focuses on the journey of gay Iranian refugees who fled the country, seeking asylum in neighboring Turkey. There, the men open up to Flynn about the years of abuse they faced and their hope that one day the United Nations would grant them permanent resettlement in the West, where they could love freely without consequence.
Flynn’s interest in theatrics started at a young age. As a child, he would coax his family members into playing a stage game in which he had them act out various roles and play characters from his favorite films. His educational and professional career took him away from the joys of his youth and into the arts; he studied voice and piano for his undergraduate degree and worked for years as a vocal coach and choir director. As Flynn progressed further into his career, he found he missed the thrill of directing others, of orchestrating what he calls an extravaganza. “That's really what making a film is, practically speaking; it’s planning and executing an immense, complex extravaganza,” Flynn said.
Flynn's passion to pursue such a challenging and controversial subject for his first feature film derived from own his struggles with his sexuality.
“I remember, when I was young, seeing an article and photo of two teenage boys being hanged in Iran, supposedly because they were gay or did something gay. I remember thinking, wow, here I am feeling, what I think is a lot of pressure to stay in the closet, because I am worried what others will think if they find out I'm gay.”
That moment burned a lasting image into the filmmaker’s mind, and when he received a grant from the Free University of Berlin, he began his research on the topic. Flynn’s quest for knowledge took him to Turkey where he worked closely with organizations such as LAMBDA Istanbul, the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees and the Helsinki Citizens Assembly which helped Flynn locate refugees, an often difficult task as the LGBT refugees’ lives depended on them hiding their true identity and remaining discreet.
While living in a small conservative town in the outskirts of Turkey, Flynn developed a plan to win the trust of the local LGBT refugee community. Flynn understood that many of the refugees were nervous with the interviewing process because refuges have to go through years of extensive interviews for the United Nations High Commissioner to make a decision on ultimate refugee resettlement status. Flynn decided not to use his camera for the first couple weeks to provide a sense of comfort for those who wanted to speak. His plan backfired, though, as a rumor started spreading that Flynn was a secret agent from the U.N. who was looking to identify people who lied about being gay to flee from Iran. Through hard work and dedication, Flynn eventually gained the trust of the men and women in the camp. Despite the challenges, Flynn regrets nothing from his time spent abroad; he’s just glad to have had the opportunity to immerse himself and his audience in the traditionalist lifestyle of LGBT refugees in Turkey.
“This is a story the world needs to hear- one that hasn't been told before, and we are going to make that happen,” Flynn said.
The producers of “Golf Alpha Yankee” have recently launched an online fund raising campaign through the popular crowd-sourcing site KickStarter in order to raise money for the post-production and necessary finishing costs of the film. The campaign will run until Aug. 17.
For details and more information on the documentary film “Golf Alpha Yankee” or for how you can contribute, visit www.golfalphayankee.com. You can also follow the film on Twitter @GolfAlphaYankee and Facebook.com/GolfAlphaYankee.