CHELY WRIGHT: WISH ME AWAY - On DemandJune 12, 2012

CHELY WRIGHT: WISH ME AWAY - On Demand

Gravitas

On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: CHELY WRIGHT: WISH ME AWAY (Gravitas).



 

 

CHELY WRIGHT: WISH ME AWAY
Like Chely…
By Cynthia Kane

 

As a little girl growing up in Kansas’ heartland, Chely Wright used to pray to God, “Please don’t let me be gay.” She also dreamed of one day going to Nashville, performing at the Grand Ole Opry and becoming a Country Music star. She achieved her childhood dreams. Yet even as she developed a loyal audience, earned accolades - including the Academy of Country Music's 1995 prize for top new female vocalist- and climbed the charts with popular singles, she was tormented by guilt and fear caused by hiding and denying her sexual orientation.

 

CHELY WRIGHT: WISH ME AWAY (Gravitas)

We think we live in modern times, but this is the tragic story of a beautiful, talented woman who closeted herself for most of her life, finally deciding in 2007, it was time to be true to herself and honest with her friends, family and fans. She decided to come out. It took three years. In fact, she is the first Country-Western Music star to do just that. She proves there’s still a great divide in the United States – and it’s not only to do with gay marriage. For many in conservative areas of the nation, it’s still daunting to be out if you identify with being homosexual.

When I first heard about the doc, CHELY WRIGHT: WISH ME AWAY, I had no idea who Chely Wright was – I like Country Music alright, although I am the first to claim I don’t always know who I am listening to. And I being a former New Yorker now living in the Bay Area, I did wonder what all the fuss was about. After all, hasn’t k.d. lang been opening gay all along and doesn’t she sing Country? Then again, it’s not all she sings – and she is Canadian. What’s shocking in this very courageous and moving documentary is that it is not at all acceptable within the Country Western-Nashville scene to be openly LGBT and to identify as a lesbian.

 

Coming out for Wright had the threat

of committing career suicide.

 

That career she so carefully built and that she dreamed of since she was a little girl growing up in a conservative Christian household.

 



Filmmakers Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Knopf follow Wright for the three years as she leaves Nashville for New York and works on her autobiography, “Like Me”. The doc is straightforward and is structured more or less in the countdown up to the day she publically outed herself on The Today Show on May 4, 2010. Her book was published the same day.

 

Following the difficult decision to come out, Wright and her team decided to carefully orchestrate the process. She knew what could happen to her career, she worried about the reactions of her fans – mostly conservative Christians like her, like many Country Western followers. She worried about the potential fall-out from the Country-Western Music industry. The Today Show interview came first, but interviews with Oprah, Rosie O’Donnell and others quickly followed– brilliantly and carefully coordinated planning.

As well as behind the scenes leading up to Coking Out Day, we are privy to candid interviews with Wright, her family and friends. She also discusses the issues and her life with the Reverand. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, who is warm and supportive, but warns of a possible backlash from conservative and fundamentalist Christian country fans. "There's nobody quite as mean," he says only half-jokingly, "as people being mean for Jesus." Media-training specialist Howard Bragman coaches Wright in the art of finessing interviews. Words must be carefully chosen, he explains.


There’s the need to find the right way

of expressing herself as a gay woman,

but not as a defensive gay woman.

 



WISH ME AWAY is a personal and intimate look at Chely Wright; after a lifetime of hiding, she shatters cultural and religious stereotypes within Nashville, her conservative heartland family, and most importantly, herself. While she’s now shunned by Nashville, her life has opened up as a human rights and LGBT activist. She also married her partner, Lauren Blitzer, an LGBT rights advocate.

The film was a big hit at last year’s Los Angeles Film Festival as well as the many LGBT Film Festivals across the nation. It won’t be shocking and revealing for many of us, and for those many of us, it will also feel a bit “and so what”. But for those across the Heartland, just like Chely Wright, it may be just the open door and welcome outreached hand needed.

 
demand it
 

- Cynthia Kane

Cynthia
Cynthia Kane reviews documentaries for On Demand Weekly. She is a writer and Sr Programming Manager for [ ITVS], overseeing the International Initiative for funding in their SF office. Prior she’s had many incarnations from actor to writer to producer. She co-created DOCday on Sundance Channel.

 

CHELY WRIGHT (Gravitas) can be found under your cable system's On Demand section.

 

Read Other Reviews By Cynthia Kane:

POLISSE DEMAND IT

CORPO CELESTE DEMAND IT

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN DEMAND IT

FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD DEMAND IT

MARLEY DEMAND IT

BLACK BUTTERFLIES DEMAND IT

ALBAGTROSS DEMAND IT

HOUSE OF PLEASURES DEMAND IT

QUEEN TO PLAY DEMAND IT

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