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Joy: Portrait Of A Nun

by Kitty Drexel
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Sunday Oct 6, 2013
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a scene from JOY: PORTRAIT OF A NUN
a scene from JOY: PORTRAIT OF A NUN  

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a gay men’s mission started in 1979 as part of the genderfuck movement in The Castro. San Franciscan Gay men who identified with the vocation of Catholic Nuns donned a Nun’s habit and attended events to raise AIDs awareness and promote LG activism.

Fast forward to present day: The Sisters are still reaching out to the greater LGBTQ community to offer support by way of fundraising, protest and spiritual comfort. They are a small but devoted community (about 400 worldwide). This short documentary, "Joy! Portrait of a Nun," dives into the life of co-founder, Sister Missionary P. Delight (Mish). In it he shares his lifelong vocation and the extensive archive of his home. It bridges the public persona of the Sisters while bringing light to his personal world he shares with a commune of Radical Faeries.

Mish explains that, while outsiders assume that the Sisters intend to malign The Church, the Sisters identify with the symbology of Nuns because they so feel a strong impulse to identify with the divine. Their intent is to spread a message of love through the easily relatable symbols of Pagan and Catholic worship. In an early moment in the film, Mish is shown speaking peacefully with two Nuns at a local protest. They understand that while their appearances differ, their intents are the same.

Sister Missionary P. Delight explains that the Sisters identify with the symbology of Nuns because they so feel a strong impulse to identify with the divine.

Mish comes across as a gentle Santa Claus type with a heart of gold. The archive is his home, a house overflowing with ephemera, historical documents and costumes. He considers himself the archivist of the Sisters and fills every corner of his space with their history. His home appears to be the physical manifestation of his vocation: While it is stuffed to bursting, he explains that every surface serves as a miniature altar to their cause. He describes the Sisters as "expiators of guilt" and "promulgators of joy." Although they are not bound to their vows to serve for life, many are members for the long haul. He gives the impression that he collects in order to hold onto as much joy and goodness as possible.

Viewer be warned: There is nudity in this documentary. It is not intended to be of a sexual nature but The Sisters and the RFs are sexual people and nudity can lead to the having of sexy times. That’s just how clothing optional situations work.

"Joy!" was filmed over seven years with the permission of the community it captures. While some might view this film as an "intimate portrait," it would be better described as a "day in the life" documentary. Mish, The Sisters and the RFs aren’t hiding from society. The Sisters are a "live and let live" group of ladies. Their compound outside of Nashville looks like a woodsy Burning Man with just as much art and nudity. The viewer is given the impression that almost anyone would be free to associate with them should they wish. Like Burning Man, this is a society for a specific type of person. If one has to question whether they’d be comfortable there, it is very likely that one would not be. In order to appreciate "Joy! A Portrait of a Nun" one should ask him/herself the same question.

"Joy! Portrait of a Nun"
Film Festival Movie Link
Compass Productions
http://www.compassproductions.ca/

This article is part of our "Out On Film Atlanta - 2013" series. Want to read more? Here's the full list»

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