Frank McMullan's blog

My post-retirement blog adventures

Film review: Prayers for Bobby

with 4 comments

Ed, Bobby, Joy, Nancy and Mary Griffith c1980

Mary Griffith is probably the bravest woman I have ever come across to have allowed her story to be told!

GALA Choruses Festival 2000 took place in San Jose, California.  It was Glória‘s first involvement with the festival.  I joined one of the festival choruses as part of my extra-curricular activities.  Jay Kawarsky was our musical director.  We sang songs from Jay’s delightful compostion, “Alec Baldwin Doesn’t Love Me“, based on the humorous writings of Michael Thomas Ford turned librettist for the occasion, originally performed and recorded by Lehigh Valley Gay Men’s Chorus, many of whose members sang in the festival chorus.  Learning music like this over such a short period and performing it in public was a thrilling new experience for me – something I have continued to do at other such festivals.

the CD

It was through this connection that I first heard of Bobby Griffith, a young gay man from Walnut Creek, California, from a fundamentalist Christian background.  Bobby committed suicide.   Prayers for Bobby, a powerful choral work composed by Jay, with libretto by Kendel Killpack, was first performed by New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus.  The CD recording, which was given to me as a gift in San Jose, is one of my treasured possessions.  It features a narrative by Native American Donna Red Wing as Bobby’s mother, Mary.

On 27 August 1983, Bobby, aged 20,  jumped to his death from the Everett Street overpass on Interstate 405 in my beloved Portland in Oregon.

the movie

At this month’s GAZE Film Festival, I saw the movie version of Prayers for Bobby – the same story, but not the Kawarsky choral version of it.  What an emotion-packed piece of work it is too!  Certainly, some scenes in the movie are a bit stilted.  This does not take away from its powerful message.  Yes, it is Bobby’s tragic story – a story to this day still being reenacted over and over again in our homophobic world – but it is even more a mother’s story, and a horrendous one where she comes to realise she was partly responsible for her son’s suicide.  Blind faith can sometimes be so blind it can prevent us from loving one another.  I have often shed a tear when watching a movie with an emotional kick to it: I don’t think I ever cried as much as I did at this one.  Sigourney Weaver captures the heart-breaking reality of Bobby’s mother almost to perfection.

the book

“I know now why God didn’t heal Bobby.  He didn’t heal him because there was nothing wrong with him.”

Both the film and the choral versions of the story are based on the book, Prayers for Bobby, by Leroy Aarons.  By chance, he came across the story in a newspaper article.  With extraordinary courage, Mary Griffith told her story to Leroy, and has gone on to tell it over and over again, through her activism with PFLAG, in the hopes that the fate of herself and Bobby won’t befall others.  Mary has a cameo role in the Pride parade scene at the very end of the movie when Sigourney Weaver thinks she sees Bobby [magnificently played by Ryan Kelley] in the crowd.


Written by Frank McMullan

27 August 2010 at 09:34

Posted in Choral Music, Church, Film

4 Responses

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  1. Jay Kawarsky pointed out to me that today is the anniversary of Bobby’s death.


    27 August 2010 at 16:20

  2. she made her son kill himself. she is dirt. nothing she does will ever change that. and the worst part is that she did it for an imaginary deity of vile and violent character. what an uneducated and unenlightened cunt.
    time does not unmake or diminish her crime. whatever she does or is today, does not unmake the death of her son. there is just no way to forgive anyone for crimes like hers. she should have been charged with some form of manslaughter.


    17 September 2010 at 17:24

    • You are so sick,I will pray for you tonight.

      dd m

      25 March 2011 at 02:42

      • Those who pray are only talking to the furniture. Grow up.
        Sick is to adhere to fabricated gods and use that as an excuse to drive somebody to suicide. The whole religionist bunch is sick and delusional.


        25 March 2011 at 16:32

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