By Emmanuel Romero, Dignity/San Francisco Board Member
Dignity San Francisco kicked off the Lenten season by hosting a community screening of Alfredo's Fire on Sunday, March 9. This short documentary tells the story of Alfredo Ormando, a gay Italian writer who traveled from Palermo to St. Peter's Square, where he set himself on fire on January 13, 1998. The demonstration was an act of protest against the Roman Catholic Church's historic persecution against LGBT people.
As part of the screening, Dignity San Francisco invited the Producer/Director/Cinematographer of the film, Andy Abrahams Wilson, who graciously appeared to introduce the movie and participate in a post-screening Q&A. The lively exchange between Wilson and the audience, which included guests from outside Dignity San Francisco, touched upon issues surrounding the closet, mental health, spirituality versus religiosity for LGBT people, the LGBT rights movement in Italy and beyond, and other topics.
"It was a pleasure to screen Alfredo's Fire with such a captive audience as Dignity, who cared about and could relate to Alfredo's struggles," Wilson said. "Had the support of such a group as Dignity been available to Alfredo, it is likely he wouldn't have chosen the fate that he did. May his story be a reminder and a beacon of light for us all."
"This documentary provided a real opportunity for us today to reflect on the spiritual dimensions of an act which stirred the minds and hearts of the Italian LGBT community and the LGBT community worldwide a number of years ago," said Ed Malcolm, co-chair of Dignity San Francisco. "We cannot help but be touched by this human tragedy, and the documentarian has helped us to see it in very personal way."
During the Q&A, when Wilson was asked what he, as someone from a non-Catholic background, thought of Ormando's story in the context of today's Church under Pope Francis, he replied that he hopes Ormando will inspire compassion in all people, regardless of whether they believe in equal rights for LGBT individuals. Wilson would also love it if Pope Francis were somehow able to watch Alfredo's Fire.
Anyone interested in learning more about Alfredo's Fire, and how they can view or screen it, can contact the filmmakers at www.alfredosfire.com.