Tim Kirkman: Storyteller of Human Complexity
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Published in: January-February 2006 issue.


WRITER-DIRECTOR Tim Kirkman has never shied away from controversy, especially when it comes to deconstructing notions about Southern hospitality. In his theatrical debut, Dear Jesse (1996), a thirty-year-old Kirkman returns to his home state of North Carolina, only to start questioning what “home” means when you are unwanted by a body politic that keeps re-electing the homophobic Senator Jesse Helms. Kirkman’s next film, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me (2000), brought actor-writer David Drake’s acclaimed play to the big screen in nine very high-energy scenes that moved from Drake’s early gay awakenings to his arrival into New York’s throbbing, scary gay scene.

A more contemplative tone is struck in his latest film, Loggerheads, which finds Kirkman back in North Carolina. Inspired by a true story, Loggerheads begins as three separate narratives that slowly draw together as the film progresses. The first is that of an HIV-positive drifter named Mark, who’s obsessed with the loggerhead turtles that reproduce on parts of the North Carolina coast. There he meets a kind man, George, who works at a motel. The second narrative is that of a Christian minister and his wife who do their best to avoid talking about their adopted son who’s run away from home, ostensibly after coming out as gay. The third story concerns the woman who turns out to be Mark’s birth mother, Grace, who’s decided after all these years to find the son that she was forced by her own mother to give up for adoption. Set over a three-year period, the three stories are destined to converge and to produce a range of emotional reactions and confrontations when they do.

Born in 1966, Kirkman gradated from North Carolina State and received an M.A. from the New School for Social Research in New York. He now spends his time between New York and Silverlake, a hip part of East Los Angeles. This in-person interview was conducted in LA last October.

— John Esther


Gay & Lesbian Review: I understand the story for Loggerheads came about while you were making Dear Jesse and meeting with members of majic (Mothers Against Jesse in Congress). Many of these women had tragic stories to tell, and you chose this one in particular.
Tim Kirkman: I thought it was an incredibly compelling story. The fact that North Carolina adoption laws prevent two adults who want to meet each other is good drama. Here is a man who was gay, who had contracted AIDS and wanted to meet his birth parents and couldn’t. And his adoptive parents had completely written him off. The film is much kinder to them than real life. The mothers didn’t actually meet in real life. The adoptive parents slammed the door when the birth mom came. The emotional journey is pretty much the same except for the ending. I couldn’t put that into the world. I mean, he dies for Christ’s sake.

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