Tribeca 2019: For They Know Not What They Do

Ryan and Rob Robertson. Photo courtesy of the Robertson Family.

Grounded in the stories of four LGBTQ people, For They Know Not What They Do is an essential documentary and should be a must-watch for everyone.

This film tells the stories of Sarah McBride, Elliot Porcher, Vico Báez Febo, and the late Ryan Robertson.  If you’re anything like me, you will get emotional while viewing the documentary.  I got chills all over my body just from watching the clip of Sarah addressing the DNC in 2016.  Having read her book in 2018, I was quite familiar with her story.  All of that said, it’s nice to see it on camera as opposed to just seeing it in print.  Wisely, director Daniel Karslake weaves their stories together with news clips.

One of the noticeable changes that Karslake makes from his first film is a bigger focus on the transgender community.  In For The Bible Tells Me So, Karlake didn’t address the religious families with transgender children.  He more than makes up for this with the inclusion of not one but two transgender people.  For this, I could not be happier.

For David and Sally McBride, Sarah’s coming out as transgender came as a big shock.  If you’ve read Sarah’s book, your familiar with Sarah’s story.  It was a huge story on the American University campus when she came out.  To see the love and support she got from friends and family on doing so is so heartwarming.  As a trans woman myself, Sarah is on the list of people that I’d love to meet someday.  No, there’s nothing in this film about being anti-pineapple pizza but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to bring this up.  It’s emotional watching some of her story knowing that her late husband, Andy, isn’t alive today.

Rob and Linda Robertson share their story of how their late son Ryan came out.  Even though Linda had a gay brother, this impacted them in a much different way.  It was enough that they spoke to their church, who encouraged conversion therapy for Ryan.  Newsflash, this is never the answer.

As for Vico Báez Febo, his parents’ beliefs made it hard for him to not only come out but to actually be out.  What makes his story more interesting is that he’s one of the survivors of the Pulse shooting in Orlando.  You can’t help but feel the pain he bares for losing his friends in tragedy.

Harold and Coleen Porcher had a hard time adjusting to Eliot Porcher coming out as transgender.  Until they accepted Eliot, it would be a long and bumpy road.

It’s hard to discuss this film without getting personal because it is personal.  I had no choice but to come out on Facebook in 2016 because of HB2.  I made the decision to do so on Memorial Day weekend because I couldn’t just vaguely share news articles.  It came at a time when I wasn’t ready to go full-time, either.  This would come in September 2016.  So when I see Republican legislators refer to trans people as perverts, it makes me angry.  I’m looking at you, former Colorado State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.  He was destroyed in this Jessica Williams clip on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.  Klingenschmitt believes that being trans is a perversion.  There’s nothing wrong with being trans.  If you can’t deal with it, get over it!

As an out transgender woman, it’s not easy living while worrying about the news.  You never know when your rights are going to be attacked.  It seems like it’s happening more frequently these days with the current administration.  It’s not just limited to the federal level.  There have been at least 200 anti-LGBTQ bills filed in state legislatures over the past few years.  Don’t even get me started on the so-called religious freedom bills.  Those laws are nothing more than an excuse for faith-based discrimination.  That’s all it is.

Here’s the thing that all the religious people out there need to know: it’s possible to be LGBTQ and religious.  It may fill tough sometimes but we’re out there.  As the Eshel shirts say: WE’RE HERE, WE’RE QUEER, WE’RE MACHMIR.  Even though filmmaker Daniel Karslake focuses on the Christian side of things, that’s not to say that Jews aren’t largely impacted.  The big difference is that you don’t see Jewish services being televised on Saturday mornings.  No, it’s mostly the evangelicals who we see on television.  It’s no surprise that most of the TV clips and news appearances come from religious Christians.

For They Know Not What They Do is an essential documentary that should be eye-opening for everyone.

DIRECTOR:  Daniel Karslake
SCREENWRITERS:  Nancy Kennedy, Daniel Karslake
FEATURING:  Rob Robertson, Linda Robertson, David McBride, Sally McBride, Sarah McBride, Vico Báez Febo, Harold Porcher, Coleen Porcher, Elliot Porcher

For They Know Not What They Do held its world premiere during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in the Documentary Competition. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.