Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘For They Know Not What They Do’ and this is the problem

FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO

Documentary Competition, World Premiere – Directed by Daniel Karslake

More maddening than enlighting, For They Know Not What They Do follows four families that facing challenges and did their best. It’s heartbreaking, frustrating and exactly what happens when people are not empathetic with each other.

I liked the structure with switching back and forth between each story, as it made the progression much more interesting. However, it felt at some points that the audience was somehow meant to forgive these people of their ignorance and lack of compassion.

There’s always value in hearing the stories of others, but I left the theater shaking my head rather than feeling like I learned something.

When the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality across the nation in 2015, many assumed that the fight for LGBTQ rights was won. But politicians and religious conservatives launched a state-by-state campaign to retract the human rights of America’s LGBTQ citizens under the guise of religious freedom. Introducing four American families caught in the crosshairs of scripture, sexuality, and identity, this documentary weaves together clips from the national news and the church pulpit, alongside family photos and intimate testimonies to show the undeniable connection between the personal and the political.

These individual experiences of rejection and validation, tragedy and triumph include Ryan Robertson, who was encouraged by his Christian family to attend conversion therapy; Sarah McBride, the transgender student body president who went on to work at the White House; Vico Báez Febo, whose Catholic grandmother locked him out of the house when a neighbor outed him; and Elliot Porcher, a young trans man who endured self-harm before his parents’ acceptance enabled him to come to terms with his gender. An emotionally impactful follow-up to the award-winning For The Bible Tells Me So, this powerful examination of the intersection of religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity offers much-needed healing, clarity, and understanding.

—Lucy Mukerjee

About Melissa Hanson

Melissa Hanson aka Dial M For Melissa - Managing Editor / Podcast Producer - Growing up, Melissa’s favorite destination was always the video store and would agonize over whether to watch something new or to rewatch a favorite. Things have not changed. Follow on Twitter @DialMForMelissa