The Believers

Directed by Todd Holland
2006
USA
80 mins

Recipient of the Frameline30 Audience Award for Best Documentary, The Believers is an unprecedented feature documentary that shatters assumptions about faith, gender, and religion. Built around the world's first transgender gospel choir, the film portrays the choir's dilemma—how to reconcile their gender identity with the widespread belief that changing one's gender goes against the word of God.

Set against the story of the Transcendence Gospel Choir's founding, the documentary reveals the lives of its members, including Tom, once a radical lesbian feminist; Ashley, choir founder, and professional sound engineer; and Bobby, a recovering drug addict, and former sex worker.

The film takes us from the Transcendence Gospel Choir's shaky beginnings—a heartwarmingly chaotic, cacophonous group unable to agree on much of anything, arguing over appropriate wardrobe and learning to sing with transitioning voices—through their transformation into the polished, award-winning choir and close-knit family they are today, garnering major performances and winning an Outmusic Award in 2004 for the album Whosoever Believes.

The intimate personal stories shed light on the complexity of balancing social change, family history, religion, and identity. At the heart of their dilemma is a struggle for acceptance within two worlds historically at odds with one another. As one of the film's subjects eloquently says, “I'm living in a window. I get to see both sides.”

The Believers is a unique story of determination and perseverance and an important look at the intricacy and diversity of spirituality and the LGBTQ+ community.

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