Flint, Michigan might seem to be the least likely city to play host to the premiere of a documentary about the gay-Christian culture war. Even so, that is what's planned this evening at the Flint local library. The film, freshman director Antonio David Garcia's Fences, attempts to break beyond the surface of the pat answers people give when discussing gay and lesbian issues.

Fences came about in 2005 as Garcia headed off to Portland, Ore., in hopes of meeting filmmaker Gus Van Sant.

The premise of the movie is simple, meet Sant and tell him of the impact his 1991 film My Own Private Idaho had on Garcia and simply talk to people along the way about gay issues. On that journey from Michigan to Oregon, Garcia finds some powerful and moving stories.

On one stop, Garcia meets Chris who was made homeless after his parents kicked him out of their home as a teenager for being gay. The family is evangelical Christian. And Garcia decides he needs to speak with James Dobson, president of the influential Christian group Focus On The Family, a group that believes homosexuality is inconsistent with Christianity and seeks to “repair” gay and lesbians through reparative therapy. He heads to the Dobson compound to confront the pastor while wearing a “God Made Me Gay” t-shirt.

He also meets Fred Phelps, the pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, whose congregation of mostly family members picket the funerals of Iraqi war soldiers. The group believes their deaths are retribution from God for the American sin of accepting gays and lesbians. Phelps is best known for making popular the phrase “god hates fags.”

And there is a detour to find the marker – a fence – where twenty-one year old Matthew Shepard's body was found tied to a post and comatose, after a brutal anti-gay attack near Laramie, Wyoming.

The film is personal for Garcia, who told The Flint Journal, “It's a very personal movie that contains a lot of my own views on Catholicism and my struggles with it. A lot of it is me questioning religion.”

The crux of the movie, Garcia tells us, is to convert those he calls “on the fence.” “I want [viewers] to question what part of themselves is bigoted towards the gay community and at what level and why.”

“It's about individuals that are on the fence and can still go either way. ... There are many people in our country who are on the fence about some of these [gay] issues and they just need to ... question themselves about what is it about the gay community that bothers them, who taught them that, and why it is. If they do that, maybe they'll jump over to our side of the fence.”

Fences is being shown tonight at the Flint library as part of the more ambitious Out 'N About series, which showcases gay & lesbian arts in the community.

On the net: Flint library website at www.flint.lib.mi.us