Ilene Marder, Press Director,, (845) 810-0264
Tina Gibbens-Tenneriello, Deputy Press Director, (845) 810-0264
Brendan Fay (917) 402-3134
union square

Films presented by

download image    

TAKING A CHANCE ON GOD to Premiere Worldwide At Woodstock Film Festival
Film Documents Life of John McNeill, Pioneer Gay Priest

Premieres Sept. 24, 3:15pm at the Woodstock Playhouse.

(NewYork- Sept.1) John McNeill, the 86-year-old gay pioneer priest, will travel from his home in Florida to Woodstock, NY for the world premiere of "Taking A Chance on God" a new documentary on his life by Brendan Fay.

McNeill will be welcomed as hero and pioneer of the international LGBT civil rights movement.

Fay's,"Taking A Chance on God" traces the surprising and uncommon life of John McNeill a humble and honest Irish American priest from Buffalo, who was a POW in Nazi Germany, a voice for peace during Vietnam, a pioneer for gay liberation and loving partner of 46 years to Charles Chiarelli.

His groundbreaking writings – including his 1976 book The Church and Homosexual – have been translated into many languages and inspired the founding of Dignity USA, an influential movement for LGBT Catholics that continues today in the United States, and similar movements in other countries.

In the 1977 and in 1983 Mc Neill was ordered to silence for speaking and writing on issues of homosexuality by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, currently Pope Benedict XVI. For "pertinacious disobedience" to this order of silence, McNeill was eventually expelled from the Jesuit order in April 1987.

Taking A Chance on God will have its world premiere on Saturday, Sept 24th as part of Woodstock Film Festival. Fay, an Irish-born filmmaker and activist who now lives in New York City, is director of Remembering Mychal and co-producer of Saint of 9/11, documentaries about Father Mychal Judge, the New York Fire Department chaplain who died in the World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001. McNeill was Fr. Judge's counselor and both priests began The Upper Room AIDS Ministry, an outreach for homeless persons with AIDS in Harlem during the 1980s AIDS crisis. The work continues today as Harlem United.

Fay noted that "this is a heartfelt story of a man and movement to open minds, hearts and doors in the Catholic Church and society". I hope the film can help keep that movement for change going. The film is a story of the heart- of John McNeill's love for his Church, his Jesuit family, the LGBT community and his beloved Charlie.

Brief film clips show John who this summer returned to Rome for Europride 2011. While in Rome, McNeill and Fay along with European LGBT leaders delivered a letter to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. The letter asked for dialogue and renewal and urged Church leadership to speak out against the violence, injustice, and discrimination experienced by LGBT people around the world.

McNeill will also visited the Jesuit Church of the Gesu. There he prayed at the tombs of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola and Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the late Superior General of the order. In 1976, Fr. Arrupe gave McNeill permission to publish The Church and the Homosexual.

Fay commented, "For a few days Rome was a sea of rainbow flags as thousands of LGBT activists in Rome for Pride mingled with Catholic pilgrims in Rome for Pentecost. It was humbling to film John in Rome.

Fay said the film is also being subtitled to Polish, Irish, Italian, Spanish and German. "A new generation of LGBT youth across the world welcomes John McNeill's reassuring voice of hope. McNeill's message that gay love can be holy love is as relevant today as when he first began to proclaim it in the early 1970s".

Fay continued, "Taking A Chance on God addresses current issues of human rights and same-sex marriage in a very personal way. John was a POW in Germany and with his partner of 46 years, Charles Chiarelli are living witnesses to the joy of same-sex committed love." McNeill and Chiarelli were legally married in Toronto on September 8, 2008. Chiarelli's family were originally immigrants to Canada from Sicily.

The film is also timely in reflecting a dramatic shift in attitudes toward LGBT issues among Catholics, as documented by recent polls in the various countries. There is a vital conversation going on among Catholics around the world, as more families and parishes embrace and welcome their LGBT sons and daughters.

"Taking A Chance on God gives a rare look into the heart of one inspiring man's journey, as he negotiates his life as a Catholic priest, a gay man, and a tireless advocate for LGBT rights," Fay said.

The film took six years to produce and was supported by people's donations. We had a dedicated team of filmmakers. The filmmakers of Taking A Chance on God are Brendan Fay: Director, Writer and Producer, Ilene Cutler, Producer and Co-editor, Dan Messina, Editor and Co Writer, and Peter Wetzler, Composer.


The Box Office, located at 13 Rock City Rd, is open Wednesday-Sunday from noon-6pm through Sept. 17; it will be open every day from 9am-7pm, starting Sept. 18 through the last day of the festival, Sunday, Sept. 25. Ticket prices for WFF events range from $5-$75. Panels are $15. Concerts range from $20-$25. There are also a limited number of tickets available for the Gala Honorary Maverick Awards Ceremony. A limited number of special Full Festival Passes are available for purchase. Single purchase tickets will also be available at each screening and concert venue.

Get your tickets early! Shows tend to sell out quickly.
For more information contact the Box Office at (845) 810-0131

About the Academy:
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciencesis the world’s preeminent movie-related organization, with a membership of more than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema.

Although best known for its annual Oscar telecast, the Academy is involved in a wide array of education, outreach, preservation and research activities. Visit for more information.


About the Woodstock Film Festival:
Hailed by Indiewire as "A true American Maverick Among Fests" and praised by actor Ethan Hawke as "among the finest of a dying breed: a festival that isn't trying to sell you anything, but simply and beautifully celebrating the art & craft of filmmaking", the Woodstock Film Festival premiers exceptional films, hosts the most talented emerging and established professionals in the movie industry; presents A-list concerts, panels and parties, and creates stimulating, innovative programming year-round.

The Woodstock Film Festival is a non-profit, 501c3 with a mission to present an annual program and year-round schedule of film, music and art-related activities that promote artists, culture, inspired learning and diversity.

The Woodstock Film Festival celebrates its 12th Annual Festival September 21- 25, 2011, with an extraordinary line-up of fiercely independent films, panels, concerts and special events in Woodstock and the neighboring towns of Rhinebeck, Kingston and Rosendale.

2011 Sponsors
Gold Sponsors          
120dB Films        
Silver Sponsors          
A&E Indiefilms TIME Magainze        
Superstar Sponsors          
BMI Brooklyn Brewery Ketel One Vodka Lowel Light Radio Woodstock  
Supporting Sponsors        
Foundation & Government Support        
Academy Foundation Giving Back Foundation NYSCA Dutchess County Arts Council    



P.O Box 1406, Woodstock, NY 12498 - (845) 679-4265 -