Funded! This project was successfully funded on January 3, 2013.

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What do we do when love goes blind? An LGBT documentary film about family love, God, inequality and the painful costs of prejudice.

THE TRAILER

AN INCREDIBLE UPDATE...

I’ve been telling people about this film for a long time now. About my uncle Miguel’s deathbed repentance of his homosexuality. About how, as Miguel was dying, my devout Catholic grandmother campaigned for his soul. About how Miguel had a live-in partner, a man named Robert. How after Miguel died, Robert disappeared. Time and time again, when I’d tell him the story, they’d say the same thing… you have to find Robert. You have to hear his side of the story.

Well, it didn’t quite happen the way we planned.

Robert found us.

On Christmas Eve, I got this message via Kickstarter:

My first thought: He’s alive.
My second thought: This is a scam. Someone is playing a very unkind joke.

I put it off for a couple of days, because I couldn’t really handle the disappointment that was surely coming my way. The day after Christmas, I made the call. About 5 seconds in, I knew it was no scam.

Listen: 

Robert & Miguel during one of Miguel's hospital stays.  Until today, when Robert emailed us this picture, we didn't even know what he looked like.
Robert & Miguel during one of Miguel's hospital stays. Until today, when Robert emailed us this picture, we didn't even know what he looked like.

Before he met Miguel, Robert was a Franciscan monk.  After Miguel's death, he rejoined the order and took the name Aquin.  He has asked us to share this with you, and to be referred to as Aquin from now on.  In his words, 'When Miguel died, Robert died also.'  Out of respect for him and my uncle's memory, he is Aquin from here on out.

The world has changed.

I can’t really comprehend the opportunity we have here. An opportunity for Aquin to be heard, finally. For me to get to know my uncle, finally. For reconciliation. For completion. For people to imagine how and why families and lovers get divided in times of crisis. And to choose differently.  

THIS is what your pledge to our project will support.

THE STORY

It is April 1987. Miguel ‘Mickey’ Dieppa, a 31-year-old Puerto Rican with dreams of making it big on Broadway, is lying in a bed in New York Presbyterian Hospital. He may or may not be dying of AIDS—his symptoms are mysterious, and he’s never been tested.  His mother Carmen, a devout Catholic, begs him to repent of his homosexuality and receive Holy Communion. Miguel agrees, despite the fact that he wears a wedding ring acknowledging his commitment to his partner Robert. A few days later, he dies—it is Easter Sunday. Carmen is convinced it is a miracle. Not only has her son’s soul been spared, but he has also been resurrected alongside Jesus Christ.

A lost photo of Carmen and Miguel after his heart transplant surgery in 1985
A lost photo of Carmen and Miguel after his heart transplant surgery in 1985

In MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART, I investigate my uncle’s deathbed repentance. I chart Miguel’s illness and talk to his doctors. I reckon with my grandmother’s faith by digging up Carmen’s religious radio program and interviewing the priests and nuns who knew her best. Most importantly, I search for Miguel’s live-in partner Robert, in an attempt to hear his side of the story. Chasing the rumor mill, I travel across the US, trying to figure out what everyone lost in that hospital room back in 1987.

Miguel in NYC before his illness
Miguel in NYC before his illness
Excerpt from a letter from Miguel discovered tucked inside the pages of Carmen's Bible. In it, Miguel pleads with his mother not to judge him. 'God knows no differences,' he writes. 'To Him we are all equal. [...] That is my God.'
Excerpt from a letter from Miguel discovered tucked inside the pages of Carmen's Bible. In it, Miguel pleads with his mother not to judge him. 'God knows no differences,' he writes. 'To Him we are all equal. [...] That is my God.'
Excerpt from a letter from Carmen donating money to a Catholic organization which believes in 'curing' gay Catholic youth. In the letter, Carmen describes Miguel's deathbed repentance.
Excerpt from a letter from Carmen donating money to a Catholic organization which believes in 'curing' gay Catholic youth. In the letter, Carmen describes Miguel's deathbed repentance.

THE IMPACT

MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART is a deeply personal account of how homophobia and religious dogma overshadowed my grandmother's profound love for her son, and gradually alienated Miguel's live-in partner from the grieving process. With gay marriage currently dividing the country, these themes are more pertinent than ever; this film will open a space for reconciliation, acceptance, and love in families with LGBT members. The film has already transformed my family—I’m confident it will transform others.

Miguel as a small child in a still from one of the lost 8mm films
Miguel as a small child in a still from one of the lost 8mm films
Production still of the cemetery in Puerto Rico where Miguel is buried
Production still of the cemetery in Puerto Rico where Miguel is buried

WHY WE NEED YOU

Since my mom found a dusty box of 8mm films and slides in the garage in 2008, MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART has come incredibly far--mostly through sweat, guts, and a ton of love. To finance production I've taken second jobs, and a whole army of people have donated their time. What we've managed to achieve has been amazing (and kind of crazy!). But now it's time to give Miguel's story the movie it truly deserves. With your help, we can make a polished, gorgeous, professional film that will screen in major festivals and be seen worldwide.

Kickstarter is an amazing funding platform for creative projects like ours. However, it's an all or nothing process—if we don't reach our goal, we lose EVERYTHING. We've given ourselves 48 days to fund this project. Please help us in any way you can.

Shooting footage on location in Puerto Rico
Shooting footage on location in Puerto Rico
Production still from an interview with the doctor that told Miguel he needed a new heart.  This clock was given to him by Miguel's parents after his death in 1987. It's still in his office today.
Production still from an interview with the doctor that told Miguel he needed a new heart. This clock was given to him by Miguel's parents after his death in 1987. It's still in his office today.

WHERE YOUR $$ WILL GO

MEMORIES is mid-way through production--the beautiful archival images have been digitized, the footage of the San Juan cemetery has been shot, the radio program transcribed. To finish production we need to shoot interviews with Miguel's family and friends. These interviews are the backbone of the film, so it's crucial that the stories people tell are captured professionally (think crew! equipment! travel!).

$20,000 is the absolute bare minimum needed to complete production and send us into the editing phase.

BUT

and this is a big BUT!

if we raise $100,000, we can complete the film and send it to festivals by fall 2013.

This handy graphic gives a visual breakdown of what this COULD look like:

So... let's not just meet our goal... let's surpass it!

REWARD UPDATES

Actor and LGBT rights activist Wilson Cruz
Actor and LGBT rights activist Wilson Cruz

My So-Called Life and RENT fans rejoice (and act fast)!! We are so very honored that actor and prominent gay activist WILSON CRUZ (Rickie in My So-Called Life! Angel in RENT!) has generously offered two very tantalizing treats to tempt you to support our film. Wilson will personally call 5 lucky backers and serenade them with "Today 4 U" from RENT, and he will provide 2 backers with a signed copy of the My So-Called Life DVD AND a serenade! These will go fast, so grab them while you can.

Click here to learn more about why having Wilson Cruz as a supporter means so much to us. Thanks, Wilson!!

Many of us enjoy giving "alternative" gifts, or making contributions in someone's honor. With any pledge of $25 or more, you may now request that we send you a lovely little card about the film that you can tuck into an envelope or small box for you to give to your honoree. Want to contribute in more than one person's name? Just let us know how many cards you need (you may request one card for each $25 increment of your pledge).

Another bonus: you can even request that your friend's name be included in the credits instead of yours! How cool of a gift is that?

We can't add this as a separate reward option, so after contributing just shoot us a message letting you know how many cards you need and where to send them. They will be sent via USPS first class mail at no charge to you, with Priority and Express available as well at your cost.

In a rush? We can also do an email version of the card that we can send either to you or to your recipient. Your pick!

OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP

Besides making a donation, there are many other ways you can help this film get made and seen. Spread the word through Facebook and Twitter or write about it on your blog. Like us on Facebook! Comment on the trailer on YouTube and on our website!  Send an email to someone you think this story would matter to.  Share the trailer with your church community.  Contact LGBT organizations and tell them about the film and why you believe it's important, relevant, and worth supporting.  

Send everyone you think this film would matter to the link to this campaign, and use the SHARE tools underneath the video.

We can't do this without you.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

In order to meet our funding goal, the biggest challenge we face is getting the word out. I'm not a Hollywood insider, and I don't have a million Twitter followers. What I do have is a great story, a whole lot of conviction, and you. If you think this project matters, then please share it. Post it to Facebook or Twitter. Send an email. Phone your mother-in-law. If everyone who supports this film convinces 5 others to do the same, we will do amazing things--together.

Another challenge I face is as a first-time filmmaker. While I have a whole lot of book learnin' about documentary film, I've had to dive into the technical side of things with both feet, which has affected the project timeline. This has been a wild and crazy adventure, and I wouldn't trade any of it. Thankfully, along the way I've partnered with some incredible film professionals (think director of photography! editor! advisory panel!) to ensure this film is completed at the highest level possible. At this point, I am well aware of both my resources and my limitations and have been able to create a realistic timeline for the completion of this project.

Thus far, we have been fortunate that the brilliant professionals that have partnered with us have been generous enough to donate their time and even share equipment. However, these guys need to eat and keep the lights on too, and they can't afford to keep working for free. In order to complete this film the way it needs to be done, we need to be able to actually pay the professionals on our crew. This is certainly one of the key challenges of our project, but one that can be addressed through a successful campaign and the continued creativity that we have employed thus far as we make a gorgeous film on a shoestring budget.

Assuming we're successful in our fundraising and can stick to the timeline in the graphic above, fulfilling on our rewards will be straightforward and not particularly risky. The risk is that if, for whatever reason, we experience delays in our production schedule, that could potentially impact the fulfillment dates for rewards such as DVDs, invites to screenings, and the like. We are committed to keeping you, our backers, in the loop with regular updates so that you have a sense of where we're at in the process as we move forward. The other tangible rewards, such as the 8x10 print, 11x17 production still, and coffee table book are far less likely to be impacted by delays in production. Those items are already in development.

As we continue on with more interviews, another challenge will be convincing my family to engage in conversation about the film. We're tackling a complex and sensitive subject here, not to mention a deeply personal story. Everyone has a different take on family history, and no two people's memories are exactly alike. For some, exploring such a personal story in a public way smacks of airing our dirty laundry, while for others the idea of telling their side of the story feels more natural. I have already met this challenge head on by listening thoughtfully to the concerns of everyone involved in the project and engaging in honest dialogue. This kind of conversation is precisely what this film is all about.

We've laid the groundwork and we're excited and ready to take on the challenge -- we just need the funds to send us on our way.

FAQ

  • The answer to that is yes and no. Kickstarter doesn't currently have an anonymous pledge feature. You are free to choose any name you wish, though, so you could anonymize that way if you would like.

    If you prefer not to be thanked publicly, please let us know after you pledge. While we want to shout from the rooftops how much we appreciate you, we also want to respect your privacy.

    Last updated:
  • Absolutely! You can either use their name when you submit your pledge OR shoot us a message letting us know who you would like us to honor in your name.

    Many of us enjoy giving "alternative" gifts, or making contributions in someone's honor. It's one way to think about, talk about and participate in the giving season in different way. With any pledge of $25 or more, you may now request that we send you a lovely little card about the film that you can tuck into an envelope or small box for you to give to your honoree. Want to contribute in more than one person's name? Just let us know how many cards you need (you may request one card for each $25 increment of your pledge).Another bonus: you can even request that your friend's name be included in the credits instead of yours! How cool of a gift is that?We can't add this as a separate reward option, so after contributing just shoot us a message letting you know how many cards you need and where to send them. They will be sent via USPS first class mail at no charge to you, with Priority and Express available as well at your cost.In a rush? We can also do an email version of the card that we can send either to you or to your recipient. Your pick!

    Last updated:
  • YES! It's your pledge reward, so if you want to gift it to a friend, go for it! Just send us a message so we can go over logistics and make sure it will work.

    Last updated:
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    THE CREDITS • For less than the price of a movie ticket, you get our deepest gratitude and we will shout it from the rooftops with your name in the credits of the film thanking you for your awesomeness and a mention on our website at www.penitentheart.com and Facebook and/or Twitter!

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    DOWNLOAD • Exclusive access to download your own HD digital copy of the completed film along with your name in the credits and a mention on our website and Facebook and/or Twitter.

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    DVD • Receive a DVD of the completed film signed by the director along with your name in the credits and a mention on our website and Facebook and/or Twitter.

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    ART PRINT • Receive a frameable 8x10 print of one of the lost, decaying images that inspired the making of this film, along with a written guide from the director explaining the decay of the original slides, which contributes to the haunting beauty of the images as we see them today. PLUS, you'll also get your name in the credits, a mention on our website and Facebook and/or Twitter, and a signed copy of the DVD.

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    SCREENING • Score an invite to a screening of the film with the director followed by your very own private Q&A. PLUS, you'll also get your name in the credits, a mention on our website and Facebook and/or Twitter, a signed copy of the DVD, and the 8x10 print.

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    CELEBRITY SERENADE • Star of My So Called Life (Rickie! OMG!) and RENT on Broadway (Angel!), prominent gay activist WILSON CRUZ will personally call you on the phone and serenade you with "Today 4 U" from RENT! (WHAT?!) PLUS, you'll also get your name in the credits, a mention on our website and Facebook and/or Twitter, a signed copy of the Memories of a Penitent Heart DVD, and the 8x10 print.

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    PRODUCTION STILL • Receive a gorgeous, limited edition 11x17 production still suitable for framing, signed by the director. PLUS, you'll also get your name in the credits, a mention on our website and Facebook and/or Twitter, a signed copy of the DVD, the 8x10 print, and an invite to a screening.

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    YOUR SO CALLED LIFE - Star of My So Called Life (Rickie! OMG!) and RENT on Broadway (Angel), prominent gay activist WILSON CRUZ will sign a copy of the My So Called Life DVD just for you, AND will personally call you on the phone and serenade you with "Today 4 U" from RENT! (NO WAAAY!) PLUS, you'll also get your name in the credits, a mention on our website and Facebook and/or Twitter, a signed copy of the Memories of a Penitent Heart DVD, and the 8x10 print.

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    ART BOOK: Receive a stunning, limited edition art book featuring gorgeous images and ephemera from the film and a written guide from the director explaining the decay of the original slides, which contributes to the haunting beauty of the images as we see them today. PLUS, you'll also get your name in the credits, a mention on our website and Facebook and/or Twitter, a signed copy of the DVD, the 8x10 print, an invite to a screening, and the 11x17 production still.

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    LUNCH IN NYC • Receive all of the above AND let the filmmaker take you out to lunch in NYC (travel not included), where you will have the opportunity to ask questions and get inside scoop to your heart's content! PLUS, you'll also get your name in the credits, a mention on our website and Facebook and/or Twitter, a signed copy of the DVD, the 8x10 print, a VIP invite to a screening, and the 11x17 production still.

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    BEHIND-THE-SCENES • Get the opportunity to attend an editing session during post-production with the director of the film, where you will receive exclusive behind-the-scenes access and be able to share YOUR opinion on the editing of the film. PLUS, you'll also get your name in the credits, a mention on our website and Facebook and/or Twitter, a signed copy of the DVD, the 8x10 print, a VIP invite to a screening, and the 11x17 production still.

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    ASSOCIATE PRODUCER & PRIVATE SCREENING • Aww yeah! Get Associate Producer credit in the film and the director of the film and available crew will host a personal screening for you and your friends (in NYC, or we'll come to you if you pay for travel). PLUS, you'll also get a mention on our website and Facebook and/or Twitter, a signed copy of the DVD, the 8x10 print, a VIP invite to a screening, the 11x17 production still, time in the editing room, and two tickets to the launch party in NYC.

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    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER • This Kickstarter campaign will get us through production, but in order to finish the film we'll need to raise additional funds. If you would like to get involved in the film in a more meaningful way, please contact us.

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Funding period

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