Monday, October 3

Ohio filmmaker debuts documentary of the LGBTQ+ journey, hugs & unconditional love of Mama Bears

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For LGBTQ+ individuals who feel alone, the Mama Bears are here to support them with resources, conversation, and a mother’s love.

Armed with banners and buttons boasting “Free Mom Hugs,” this ever-growing group of mothers is ready to do whatever it takes to support LGBTQ+ individuals. Whether that means standing in as affirming mothers at weddings, offering hugs at Pride events, or simply engaging in conversation, the Mama Bears want to make sure that LGBTQ+ individuals and their families receive the support and love they deserve.

And now, everyone has the wonderful opportunity to learn more about the impact of the Mama Bears have through an upcoming documentary film—aptly named MAMA BEARS—which will be screened on April 6th at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

With tens of thousands of members all across the country, including many from conservative, Christian backgrounds, this film showcases the transformative journey many mothers take to look past prejudices and love their children unconditionally. MAMA BEARS explores the impactful journeys of three such mothers and their LGBTQ+ children as they navigate their own beliefs, prejudice from others, and the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that threatens their families’ lived existence.

To learn more about this groundbreaking documentary, The Buckeye Flame spoke with Daresha Kyi, the film’s director and producer (and an Ohio native!).

What are the main messages that the Mama Bears and your film are trying to convey?
Well, they’re one and the same, and love is the message. That’s the message. And for those people who are attacking the LBGTQ+ community, we want to say, “That is not loving.” It’s very simple: It comes down to love or fear, love or hate. If you’re not operating from love, what are you operating from?


Why is the Mama Bears an important story to tell?
I think that the Mama Bears are providing an example for the best of us, of how to live and love people where they are and accept people where they are. Particularly for communities like the ones that they come from, conservative Christian communities who are struggling with this issue, Mama Bears provide a clear path forward for parents to be able to keep their faith and love their children.

What do you think is the impact of the Mama Bears on the LGBTQ+ community?
When I first came up with the idea for this film, the second person I told was a very dear friend of mine. He’s a queer man, and I just told him about the Mama Bears, and he burst into tears. His mom had shunned him as a Jehovah’s Witness when he came out, and so he knew the pain of parental rejection firsthand. He promptly offered me the money that I needed to have our first shoot and create our first sample that I could then use to raise the money for the film. That’s how much just knowing about these Mama Bears moved him.

Once I saw that, I knew what kind of impact this could have for people who come from these communities where they have been vilified, ostracized, and punished for being who they are. It means the world to know there are people from those same communities who love and accept them just as they are.

And it’s such an important message that it conveys.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the words, “I thought I was the only one.” And that’s the other thing: letting people know that they’re not the only ones, and that they are not alone. There’s a community of people just waiting and ready to help you and love you and support you on your journey.

What inspired you to create this film?
I just wanted to create something that was going to move us in the right direction. I wanted to speak to love. I consider myself a warrior of love, and I consider these moms warriors of love. And I know the fear in the battle of love against hate. That’s the plan. So for me, this film is a tool that I want to use in this battle to amplify the message of love and increase the power of love and spread love.


How did you feel about making this film, and how do you feel now?
It took five years; I had a lot of feelings! This movie is a journey, and it’s a rollercoaster ride. It requires everything you’ve got, and it takes you on an emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual, financial journey. It’s depressing, it’s uplifting, it’s gratifying, it’s exhausting. More than anything, it’s overwhelming, the whole process from start to finish. And how do we do it? I don’t know. It’s not like we’re doing it for the money, so it must be something else. It must be love.

What are you most excited about and proud of for this film?
Everything! I’m most excited that we got it done. And now, I’m excited to see what kind of impact it has on the world, and on America in particular. I’m excited about the possibilities for how this film can impact people and impact the conversation around human rights. 🔥

Ignite Action:

  • MAMA BEARS is screening at the Cleveland International Film Festival on April 6 at 5pm. It will be available for online screening from April 10 to April 17. For more info, go here

About Author

Cassidy Naypauer is a future Speech-Language Pathologist who has always been passionate about writing, languages, and travel. She double-majored in speech pathology and Spanish at Miami University, and is currently pursuing her Master’s in speech pathology at Baldwin Wallace University.

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