I was interviewed for Emerson College Today in advance of Families Can Be Together Forever screening at the It's All True Documentary Festival. Here's the section of the article relevant to my work, as written by Erin Clossey:
Colleen Kelly Poplin MA ’10, MFA ‘16 grew up in the Mormon Church. She says she can trace her family back to the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, complete with stories of moving across the plains in covered wagons, “so it’s a big deal in my ancestry.”
As she grew older, Poplin started to feel that LDS’s beliefs and policies were “damaging” to women, and she began to slowly pull back from the church. She married a non-Mormon, as a graduate film student at Emerson made woman-centric work, and supported progressive politics. But still, she didn’t walk away from church that had raised her, out of a sense of tradition, family, and identity.
Then she found out she was pregnant with a little girl.
“I was like, no, I can’t raise her [in the church] the way I want her to be raised,” Poplin said.
That journey, from the testing of the “pee cup,” through her internal struggle, to the moment when she tells her mother she’s leaving the church, is captured in Poplin’s 29-minute documentary, Families Can Be Together Forever.
The film is one of eight nonfiction films being screened at It’s All True, Emerson’s annual student documentary film festival, being held Thursday, April 6, 7:00 pm, in the Bright Family Screening Room.
“In true Emerson spirit, the eight short nonfiction pieces represent a diversity of topics and styles, from a transgender student’s transition to a Chinese student’s discovery of the truth about Tiananmen Square,” said Associate Professor Marc Fields, VMA Graduate Program director and co-curator of the festival, in a statement.
Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee will give opening remarks at the festival. On Wednesday, April 5, 7:00 pm, also in the Bright Family Screening Room, McElwee will answer questions from the audience following a screening of his film Bright Leaves.
In Bright Leaves, McElwee returns home to North Carolina to investigate some family lore—that his great-grandfather, who developed the formula for Bull Durham tobacco, was cheated out of a fortune by James “Buck” Duke, who stole the formula from him.
Poplin, who works as an academic advisor at Emerson and teaches a class called Creating Feminist Media, investigates her own background and family lore in Families Can Be Together Forever.
The title of the film comes from a song she grew up singing in the church. The lyrics teach kids that if a couple is married in a temple and everyone in the family is a good Mormon, they will be together throughout eternity.
Implying, of course, that if one marries a non-Mormon and raises her children outside the church, there will be no happy reunion in the afterlife, a concept that Poplin and her mother have struggled with.
“It was actually miraculous, [in the film] my mom comes and I document her meeting my baby for the first time, and she was singing…that song and I was shooting it,” Poplin said. “It was an all-the-worlds-colliding-together moment.”