Love is all you need. There should be no question. Yet, 3.2 million children are bullied each year, and teen suicide rates are through the roof because of the unwillingness of people to accept those who love members of the same sex.
LGBTQ+ activist and film director Kim Rocco Shields hopes to change the culture of intolerance by immersing her audience in a universe where their love is considered a sin. Her film “Love is All You Need?” exists in an inverted society in which homosexual couples are the majority, and heterosexuals, or “ros,” fall victim to the vicious hate crimes gay youth suffer today.
“It’s designed to show the audience what it’s like to feel marginalized and bullied based on something as minuscule as the gender of the person they love,” Shields said. “I want to inspire change by starting a discussion, and the best way to do that is by showing people the view from the other side of that intolerance.”
The film follows the forbidden relationship between beloved college football quarterback Jude Klein (Briana Evigan) and boyfriend Ryan Morris (Tyler Blackburn), as well as the crushing story of grade school student Emily Curtis (Kyla Kenedy), as they all struggle to come to terms with their heterosexuality in a religious southern town.
It contrasts the freedom of falling in love for the first time with the confinement of social standards and the suffocating feeling of having to hide one’s true self.
“The content is something we all need to think about in the way people affect people, and this film is such an interesting and unique approach to doing that,” said actor Tyler Blackburn who plays star-crossed lover and hate crime victim Ryan Morris.
This heart-wrenching love story can be expected to make audiences feel so intensely emotional that they are handed a custom pack of tissues upon entering the theater. It dares viewers to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror and seriously question the way they treat others.
“I want people to really feel the pain so they can develop empathy toward members of the LGBTQ+ community, and this film does just that,” Shields said.
Through her film, Shields pushes to expel stereotypes through reversing gender roles and placing men and women on an equal playing field. In a world where girls play tackle football, women serve as reverends, and females and males alike are responsible for the verbal and physical abuse of heterosexuals, the dangerous power of conformity enters the limelight and shows that anyone can be taught to hate.
The town’s Reverend Rachael (Elisabeth Röhm) preaches hate under the pretense of God’s work, promoting the use of violence to dispel heterosexuality from the community. Each of the prejudiced sermons delivered in the film was directly adapted from real sermons, with the only change being the replacement of homosexual with heterosexual.
“The character of the reverend is meant to shine a light on those who weaponize the bible and manipulate text to carry out their own hateful agenda,” said executive producer Giovani Corvino.
Before the creation of the feature film, Shields produced a viral short film by the same name in 2011. The film was the start of an incredible movement, rapidly gaining followers worldwide. However, when some school teachers in small, religious towns shared the video with their students, it created an immediate uproar, resulting in their termination.
“This film is for those people in the South or other places where they feel too scared to be themselves. Some people just don’t want gay to be normal, and the fact that there has already been so much backlash just reassures me that we’re hitting on something important,” Shields said.
“I grew up in the racist Deep South during the ‘70s, and it was damaging to be in that kind of environment where societal prejudices dictated who you could sit with, or even talk to,” said actress Katherine LaNasa who plays the role of narrow-minded mother Vicki Curtis. “It was important to me as a mother of two to play this unfavorable role to improve my children’s future and provide them with a lesson in tolerance.”
Touching on issues such as bullying, suicide, and self harm, the film illustrates the seriousness behind the recent epidemic of LGBTQ+ suicides. Everything in the story is based on tragic, yet true events.
“I took on the role of the bully because I wanted it to be played correctly without sugarcoating the severity. I wanted to show that real bullies are just like my character and that it’s a one hundred percent real depiction and a real problem,” said actress Ava Allen who plays bully Paula Santilli.
“The message of ‘Love is All You Need?’ grabbed me from the beginning. As someone who has been both a victim of bullying and a bully myself, I jumped at the opportunity to play this incredibly important role to show what horrible things bullying can drive people to do,” said actress Briana Evigan who plays main character Jude Klein.
The cast and crew all expressed overwhelming enthusiasm for their work on this impactful project.
At the Friday night screening of “Love is All You Need?” at the Newport Beach Film Festival, audience members left the theater teary-eyed and inspired. It was evident that Shields had poured her heart into this project, attacking the issues at hand with her all-encompassing passion for galvanizing change and creating an environment where love is truly all you need.
There will be a second screening of “Love is All You Need” on Thursday, April 28 at 2:15 p.m. at the Edwards Big Newport cinema.