A new film written by Ithaca College Assistant Professor Jack Bryant confronts the controversial practice of ex-gay conversion therapy.
“Fair Haven” tells the story of James, a young piano prodigy who enters into conversion therapy after the death of his mother. Though he attempts to live as a straight man when he returns to his family’s farm, he struggles with his identity when he encounters an ex-boyfriend.
The film’s cast includes such seasoned acting veterans as Tom Wopat (“The Dukes of Hazzard”) and Gregory Harrison (“Trapper John, M.D.”), as well as relative newcomer Michael Grant (“The Secret Life of the American Teenager”) as James.
Bryant, who teaches screenwriting courses in the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, began working on the screenplay for “Fair Haven” about 10 years ago. He decided to write about conversion therapy because he had lost a few friends who had undergone the process and afterwards seemed like different people.
“To me it was like they’d been brainwashed,” said Bryant. “It was a scary thing, a painful thing, and not something that I viewed as healthy for them.”
Also known as reparative therapy, conversion therapy purports to “cure” individuals of homosexuality. However, professional medical groups such as the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association oppose conversion therapy as an invalid practice that is potentially harmful to patients.
While Bryant was personally familiar with conversion therapy, he immersed himself in documentaries and articles on the practice in order to write “Fair Haven.” He even considered entering a therapy program himself to gain first-hand experience, but ultimately decided against it.
“I didn’t feel like I was a good enough actor to pull off the ruse that I would have to without losing my cool or getting really upset by what was going on,” said Bryant. “I also didn’t want to give them the money.”
The film premiered in April in Washington, D.C., at an event sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign. It has screened theatrically and in festivals in the U.S. and Europe and is being distributed in the U.S. by the Little Film Company.
Bryant says that reaction to the film has so far been positive, with some viewers relating it to their own experiences of going through conversion therapy.
“Fair Haven” will have a free public showing on Friday, Nov. 4, at 5 p.m. in Park Hall Auditorium at Ithaca College. Following the screening, Bryant and director Kerstin Karlhuber will engage in an audience discussion.