Byline: Teresa Stepzinski
A filmmaker defended an anti-bullying film on Monday that critics suggested is more about promoting homosexuality and less about stopping bullies. The film upset Putnam County parents and church leaders after it was shown to about 100 high school students. It depicts a fictional world in which heterosexual children are bullied by homosexual children to the indifference of teachers and other adults.
Jeremy Rhoden, a first year agriscience teacher at Palatka High School, showed the independent film, "Love is All You Need," to ninth through 12 grade students in his Future Farmers of America class on Feb. 20. It portrays a heterosexual girl being bullied until she commits suicide by slitting her wrists in the film's graphic conclusion.
The film's critics said it was designed to promote homosexuality and is anti-Christian. In addition, it never should have been shown without the students' parents first being notified and given the opportunity to opt out their children, said residents objecting to it.
"That video had nothing to do with bullying. ... It had to do with a militant sodomite agenda," said John Iskat, pastor of Faith Baptist Church, who was among a half-dozen pastors who spoke out against the film at a March 4 county School Board meeting.
Senior Pastor Timothy Hall of Cross Road Community Church said the film "was intended to indoctrinate and persuade students to a particular point of view.
"This video depicts a life of those who are ridiculed, teased and bullied for being a heterosexual in a gay world," Hall said.
Neither Hall nor Iskat could be reached for comment Monday.
Monday night, Kim Rocco Shields, the film's creator and director, said the film was made to portray bullying and how a child can be pushed to suicide.
"I firmly believe in love thy neighbor as thyself.***How can we love someone as ourselves if we don't put ourselves in their shoes?" Shields told the Times-Union before screening the film for 35 people.
"It is not meant to spread ideals of homosexuality. It's meant to portray bullying."
Shields and Rhoden talked to the audience during a question-and-answer session following the screening. The crowd was supportive, especially to Rhoden, as he told them about his coming out last year, the bullying that he previously experienced and why he showed the film to the students.
Rhoden said it was a last-minute decision to show the film after his initial lesson for the day fell through due to technical difficulties. He said he told students that they could leave and go to study hall. He then described what the film was about that he was going to show.
The students who stayed to watch it understood the message was about not bullying people. …