Moroni for President Movie Review

‘Moroni for President’ is about diversity and a shift in thinking as much as it is about someone throwing their hat into the ring to be considered president of the Navajo Nation. Being that I live in Arizona and have lived near a reservation I took great interest in seeing if a young man can challenge his elders and be the change that he, himself, seeks in the community. At the beginning of this gorgeously shot film, we learn some facts about the Navajo’s themselves. The Navajo Nation is the largest Native American Nation in the United States as it spans across Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. Like the U.S., they have a presidential election every four years. Because of their size, the Navajo president is the most influential and powerful tribal leader in the country.

Here we meet several candidates as well as get to know Moroni Benally, the subject of the film. In 2014, the president is Ben Shelly. When we are introduced to him, he tells us of how much complaining and bellyaching he hears. He explains that people blame him for everything, even everyday problems that he can’t control. You can see it pains him that people don’t see what he does accomplish. This may be the case but he wants to run again.

Joe Shirley Jr., who has held the position before, wants to try again, as well. If he’s successful, he would be elected into a third term, something not allowed for a U.S. president. Ben Shelly was Joe Shirley’s Vice President. Learning all of this, you can see appreciate where Moroni is coming from. It’s past time for some change. He feels leaders past and present, who walk around in jeans, wear cowboy hats and boots, are bound by the old way of thinking and of doing things. They certainly don’t like to be questioned. Moroni doesn’t dress like, as he refers to them, the ‘old guard’ and sees they aren’t always truthful. They’ve continued to try and sell the Navajo people the ‘American Dream’ when it’s not possible to achieve. Not only would he like to bring a fresh perspective on things by getting youth involved but by challenging the United States.

This being the case, something fascinating and disheartening you hear is that their tribe isn’t allowed to build buildings because the land they live on isn’t theirs. They’re only allowed to use it. Moroni wants everyone to wake up to the fact that there will be no reaching the ‘good life’ that the elders have always sold them on unless they’re allowed to control their own resources. The question now is, can they confront the United States government and arrive at a better agreement than what’s currently in place? He tells young people who’ll listen that they should at least try. Their future is in their hands. Do they want to live in shacks or something better? Can they truly be a sovereign nation? Moroni believes they can.

Not only is this about his candidacy for president but something perhaps even bigger for Moroni. He’s an ex-Mormon who struggled terribly with the fact that he’s gay. In fact, he felt it was a cancer in his body. He confesses to those of us watching this documentary that he pleaded with God to be healed. It took him until the age of twenty-seven until he came to terms with who he was and accept it. In that time, he learned how to work a crowd, in fact, many older ladies who supported his candidacy fell in love with him instantly. He jokingly ruminates on how much money he could save his community by not having a first lady.

Moroni’s an extremely likable person, which is one of the things you’ll most enjoy. This documentary unfolds in a way that reveals so much more than just a bid for a chance to lead. Sadly, Moroni isn’t elected but he does accomplish something very important. The film gives many heartbreaking, staggering statistics that I’d like to see addressed in another documentary, but this ends on a light note about what he did for the Navajo Nation as a whole. He may not be able to speak the language as well as some, he may not have been elected their president, that honor went to Russell Begaye, but Moroni sheds light on the LGBTQ community and welcomes them, giving them a safe place, to finally come out and be counted. It was wonderful to see that they, no matter who they loved, were supported… as was Moroni himself. Again, the cinematography is breathtaking. The filmmakers take full advantage of the grounds Moroni walks and shows you an exceptionally beautiful area of the country. You’re going to admire Moroni but watch this also for the glorious and breathtaking landscapes.   

Lez Bomb Movie Review

Coming out films are often stories filled with struggle and pain. The writers and directors generally fill the hearts and minds of their audiences with some of the trauma that a person who’s in love with the same sex oftentimes goes through. This isn’t the case with ‘Lez Bomb.’ This is a comedic take on how Lauren, played by the writer/director herself, Jenna Laurenzo, marches up that hill with a family who simply won’t listen. She’s nervous. She’s scared. However, she also feels confident enough in their acceptance that she chooses Thanksgiving to tell them the big news. Maybe she figures the tryptophan will relax them enough. If that doesn’t work, there’s plenty of wine.

On Thanksgiving morning, before other arrivals, Lauren finds a moment alone with her mother, Rose (O’Connell), to tell her who she really is. Rose, playing a caring mother with naïve tendencies, doesn’t really give Rose any reason to fear telling her but she’s simply too busy to give her daughter any of her attention. She’s running around the kitchen like a chicken with its head cut off. Very much like a television sitcom, this scene along with many others following, felt contrived. Lauren finds out that her parents have been looking at her social media accounts and have short-sightedly mistaken a friendship with her male roommate, Austin (Brandon Micheal Hall), as the relationship she’s trying to hide. They also believe she’s pregnant. Even though Lauren is an adult and they like Austin, this suddenly becomes a problem, one of which her father, George (Pollak), threatens Austin’s life unless he officially brings the relationship to light. As the movie continues, what is revealed isn’t what poor Lauren is trying so desperately to shed light on, but instead how insane her family is. They stumble over one another, refusing to hear the other and throughout the film, and sabotage what Lauren wants to accomplish.

There are funny moments; you’ll laugh and you can thank Bruce Dern, who plays Lauren’s grandpa, and Cloris Leachman, who plays Josephine, for a lot of that. However, for the most part, the comedy feels less instinctive than forced and strained rather than composed. In ‘Lez Bomb,’ we have a comedy but often a comedy of errors. A woman is desperately trying to come out to her parents and is stopped at every turn. She tries over and over to inform them that the friend she has with her means much more to her than they realize and as she quietly takes it, you want to be her voice. It’s frustrating to watch. I wanted to like it more but I thought the characters were weak and some of the situations they were put in too sophomoric to accept.

*Opens Friday, November 9 In Theatres and on VOD

In Phoenix at AMC Arizona Center 24