In 1998, a gay writer named Alfredo Ormando knelt in St. Peter's Square and lit himself on fire. His self-immolation was a protest against the Church's strict stance against gay marriage and homosexuality in general.
Now, over a decade after Ormando's death, the Pope is resigning in the midst of the Church's ongoing sex scandal and the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to legalize same-sex marriage. It seems the perfect time for San Francisco documentary filmmaker to finally bring Alfredo's story to light.
Andy Abrahams Wilson, whose previous directorial credits include 2008's Under Our Skin, became interested in Ormando's story after hearing a news report about it. However, he claims in his Kickstarter campaign, the media largely swept the story under the rug, even though Italians viewed it as their own Stonewall. "Though it's an old story, it's very timely," Wilson says. "At the time, the gay movement was nascent in Italy and the Internet wasn't really used. His fire couldn't spread, both culturally and technologically."
It seemed Ormando intended to incite a protest. Before his death, he wrote, "I hope they'll understand the message I want to leave. It is a form of protest against the Church that demonizes homosexuality and at the same time all of Nature, because homosexuality is her offspring."
Of Ormando's intentions, Wilson says, "If you can call self-immolation brilliant, I think it was a brilliant protest."
When Ormando burned, Pope Benedict XVI was still Cardinal Ratzinger, the man in charge of Church doctrine who upheld the Vatican's stance against homosexuality. In a blog post about the film, Wilson wrote, "At the time, in part guided by Ratzinger's prefecture, Alfredo's gesture was downplayed by the Church as a desperate act of a lost soul." Pope, Benedict XVI continued to battle homosexuality, calling it "an offense against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace."
Today, Pope Benedict XVI is resigning from his position, becoming the first pope in some 600 years to walk away from the Vatican.
Wilson hopes that telling Ormando's story will expose the threats Church doctrine poses to the lives of gay people throughout the world. But in order to finish telling the story, he needs your help. His Kickstarter campaign is currently underway to raise money for the film's finishing touches.
Check out the trailer below:
Join Wilson in launching his Kickstarter tonight, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Design Plus Gallery, 333 8th St. (at Folsom Street).