Building A Bridge is a beautifully crafted documentary of not only the work of Father James Martin, but respectfully showcases the work of the other side; those in the Catholic church who oppose the LGBTQ community and how vocal they are with their hate for both the community and for Father Martin.
I was hooked by the first few minutes of the film when they compare the growth of Father Martin’s Spring flowers to the growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community in the Catholic church, calling it an “early Spring.”
Throughout the film, Father James Martin discusses the need to build that bridge between the two communities with both poise and moments of comic relief. To the tune of beautiful, uplifting scores by Teddy Abrams and Nathan Farrington, the film takes a powerful approach by juxtaposing the Catholic church’s derogatory vocalization toward the LGBTQ community with footage of Pride festivals and rainbow flags.
With a few twists and turns along the way, Building A Bridge lets viewers in on Father Martin’s journey from devastation to inspiration by the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, the basis behind his book of the same title and the challenges faced within the church during that time. “Even in death, these people were largely invisible to the church,” Father Martin says of the Pulse victims.
The film goes on to follow the life of one of Father Martin’s biggest opposers, who Father Martin admits he prays for despite the man’s incessant hate, even showing a time when the man compared loving LGBTQ people to loving murderers, a moment in the film that left me speechless.
While Father Martin isn’t fearless — stating at one point that he’s uncertain about attending Pride festivals at the risk of being photographed with anything that’s pro-same-sex marriage because he’s “not supposed to” support it — the film catches many encounters on camera when he’s shaking hands and speaking with LGBTQ Catholics and allies that he and his book have helped, rightfully depicting Father Martin as the Catholic LGBTQ bridge that he is.
For me, the biggest part of this film was the way it didn’t push Catholicism, but expanded a warm welcome from the LGBTQ community to the church, and vice versa. As someone who was a born-and-raised Catholic-turned-agnostic, I appreciated the notions of acceptance and community without feeling pressured into any other ways of thinking. Like one woman in the film told Father James Martin: her friends love him, and they’re friends who don’t believe in anything.
Building A Bridge tackles everything from a mother of a Pulse shooting victim and her shaken faith, to an LGBTQ teen who feels he has to “leave the rainbow flag at the door” when he arrives at church, to all of the online and in-person hate Father James Martin receives on a daily basis for his advocacy.
As an LGBTQ person who has left most of my faith behind me, I found this film to be hopeful. I encourage everyone to watch this — whether you’re LGBTQ or an ally, Catholic or of another religion — as it’s a positive step toward building the bridge that these churches desperately need.
Building A Bridge is available on VOD May 3, 2022, AMC+ on June 21, 2022, and SundanceTV on June 26, 2022.
Thank you to Lucky and the Building A Bridge team for offering me an early screener in exchange for my honest review.