Film & Television

‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’
Coming of Age in Conversion Camp

The film is a powerful protest against any dogma (in this case, fundamental Christian) that is quick to brand people and their behavior as either righteous or sinful. In God’s Promise there is no place for individualism or shades of gray. There is, however, plenty of room for self-recrimination and shame. “Isn’t programming people to hate themselves a form of abuse?” Cameron asks.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is based on the Young-Adult novel by Emily Danforth. Akhavan remembers, “I loved the book. I read the book when it came out and shared it with everyone I knew. I felt like I hadn’t read a teen coming-of-age story that was so honest, and the fact that it was queer was also incredibly cool.” Researching gay conversion therapy and interviewing survivors, she was “horrified by how villainized their instincts were and the violent extremes that their families went through.” But, she continues, “I had no interest in making a film about people who feel sorry for themselves. I wanted to make a John Hughes film. I wanted to make a teen film that I wanted to see as a teen and craved all the time, that I hadn’t seen in a while.”

To tell Cameron’s story, Akhavan surrounded herself with a heavily female creative team, including cinematographer Ashley Connor (Our Idiot Brother); editor Sara Shaw (whose credits include Akhavan’s first feature, Appropriate Behavior); casting director Jessica Daniels (30 Rock); art director Tori Lancaster (Don’t Think Twice), and costume designer Stacey Berman (The Wilde Wedding).

Although The Miseducation of Cameron Post did find a distributor a couple of months after Sundance, it isn’t getting mainstream U.S. distribution yet. Akhavan sees this as an issue for independent films — especially in the world of Netflix and Amazon — and particularly frustrating for women. “I will say that I know a man who just debuted his first film at Sundance who’s now shooting a very high-budget show for Netflix. I don’t know any women who’ve had that situation. I just think it’s a different set of opportunities out there when you’re a woman working in any industry, let alone film.”

But, Akhavan, who is wrapping up a Hulu series called The Bisexual, has a way of looking at the glass half-full. “Create opportunities for yourself,” she encourages aspiring filmmakers. “Keep telling stories you want to tell and find a way to pay your rent … I’m really grateful things turned out this way for me. The work I made now I’m really proud of; I like the control I have.” Although, she admits, “I would like to make something super-mainstream. I would like to make a big studio film with a bloated budget that your immigrant dad wants to see when you come home for Christmas. I would love to make a film you can’t help but know about. I love Cameron Post, but my fear is that it will preach to the choir, and I don’t have any interest in doing that.”

A more mainstream movie about a gay conversion experience is coming out this fall with bigger stars and a bigger budget. Boy Erased will focus on the experience of the gay son of an intransigent (and unforgiving) preacher. The cast includes Oscar winners and nominee Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Lucas Hedges. It’s written, directed, and also stars Joel Edgerton.

Considering these two films, the choir that Akhavan mentioned is sure to get a lot bigger.

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  • Rebecca Olander August 28, 2018 at 7:47 am

    The headline of this review almost made me not read the review, and to make false assumptions about the film. If I hadn’t gone on to read the review, those assumptions would have solidified, which is a shame. And this is even though I had just seen the preview for this film at my local indie movie house, and had thought it looked great. From actually reading this article, I have gathered that the film will be indeed be great, though just not seen as widely as it should be due to a lack of commercial support. It sounds nuanced and surprising, a unique take on a horrific situation. Not at all preachy. But the headline proclaims that it preaches to the choir, which is exactly what the filmmaker says she fears will happen – not because of her film, but due to a lack of mainstream distribution. I think the review has the potential to help spread the word about this fine film and therefore expand its audience beyond “the choir,” but I fear the headline does a disservice and may stop some from seeing, which would be horrible! Without reading the piece, one might think the headline speaks to the message of the film as being didactic (the phrase “preaching to the choir” has such a negative connotation), rather than to its potential small audience being those who already possess a open-minded mindset about sexuality and its many expressions. The review itself is great, though, and I do plan on seeing the film!