Partnering with the B.W. Bastian Foundation, the Pride Alliance showcased “Dog Valley” from producer Chad Anderson and Tiffany Rhynard film “Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America” featuring film subject Moises Serrano on March 4 and 5 for the SUU Pride Alliance B.W. Bastian Film Festival.
Anderson set out to discover and tell the story of Gordan Church in “Dog Valley,” a harrowing story of how a gay former SUU student was murdered on the outskirts of Cedar City in a homophobic hate crime.
Two men met Church on Main Street in Cedar City, Utah and drove to Cedar Breaks where they raped, beat and confined Church in the trunk of a car.
The perpetrators then drove Church an hour away from the initial assault and murder Church with a tire jack.
“This murder was too violent, too sad and too outrageous to be true,” former Iron County attorney Scott Burns said.
The murder of Church occured a decade before the widely known story of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old Wyoming student who was murdered in a homophobic hate crime.This event spurred The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevent Act of 2009, which made hate crimes against an individual for their actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability a felony.
Church’s murder, in comparison, received no such publicity, and so did not initially result in a change in federal legislation. Anderson made it his aim to remember Church and in that to create space for legal change and ongoing activism.
“It became a personal mission to see Gordon remembered and honored,” Anderson said.
The second film focused on Moises Serrano, an undocumented and Queer individual from North Carolina and his fight to keep his family in the States while simultaneously striving to support civil rights for migrants through protests and interaction with state legislation. The film covers both personal and national experiences witnessed by Serrano and his reaction throughout.
After the film was screened, the audience had the opportunity to meet and discuss the film with Serrano himself via Zoom.
Serrano, who has been in the United States since he was 18 months old, strived to make sure people know that he and other activists are here and advocating for justice and equality.
“I am queer, I am undocumented and I am unafraid,” Serrano said.
It is these words that have inspired so many he has encountered to adopt the same mantra as they push for a change in law and the improvement of freedom.
SUU Counseling and Psychology Service representatives and SUU police officers were present throughout the showing of the film to help the audience feel both safe and heard while learning about important and very real events happening in the United States.
This is the sixth annual SUU Pride Alliance Film Festival at Southern Utah University thanks to the money provided by the B.W. Bastian Foundation.
The film festival strives to do inter-sectional queer justice and promote conversation among students, staff and faculty.
SUU Counseling and Psychological Services Mental Health Counselor and Film Fest Grant Principal Investigator, Andrea Donovan welcomed audience members by saying: “If you’re here because you love justice, if you’re here because you recognize the beauty and tenacity in our gathering together, if you’re here because this is meaningful work—I’m deeply grateful we’re all here together.”
More information on the Pride Alliance can be found here.
Article by: Audrey Gee and Danielle Meuret
Photos by Audrey Gee