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Watch the Specter of Gay Rights Tear Apart a Small Christian Town

Peace in the Valley documents a small town built around religious tourism that has become divided over an ordinance that protects its LGBT citizens from discrimination.
January 25, 2016, 5:00am

With the Iowa caucus just one week away and no clear winner in either party, America appears more divided then ever. The rhetoric coming out of the GOP and Democratic candidates couldn't be more diametrically opposed, yet combined they supposedly represent America. It's politics, so any amount of nuance has long been thrown out the window. Elections are black and white—winners and losers. But before everything becomes too calcified in your head, I ask you to turn your gaze to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The small town is a microcosm of our country, its extremes and its nuance.

In the spring of 2015, two filmmakers, Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, traveled to Eureka Springs to get a sense of the town and its people. In their short film Peace in the Valley, that premieres this weekend at the Sundance Film Festival. They found a usually tranquil place that was massively divided over an ordinance to protect its LGBT citizens from discrimination. In the film, the townspeople's opinions on the ordinance define them one way or the other. The whole thing plays out like a country cartoon. However, with credit to the filmmakers, the doc chose to go deeper than expected. After interviewing a wide swath of the town's inhabitants, the directors uncover something real, something still problematic, but something truly American.

Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as a film curator. He's the senior curator for Vimeo's On Demand platform. He has also programmed at Tribeca Film Festival, Rooftop Films, and the Hamptons International Film Festival.