Logline: Your Own God
A Black dandy tells the story of his dying American husband about their harrowing and inspiring epic 50 years together where their gay and Interracial relationship was illegal under South Africa’s apartheid. Inspired by two remarkable gentlemen.
With his spouse, an American War Correspondent, on his deathbed, a successful Black antique restorer recounts their epic fifty-year love affair through South Africa's darkest times.
In 1968, during Apartheid, Teddy Mboto, a young Xhosa college student and aspiring designer, meets a cocksure American war correspondent, Ernie Halloway, and they fall in love, much to the protestation of Teddy’s mother, Winifred.
Over the next 25 years, they figure out ways to live together even though their relationship - both as an interracial and a gay couple - is dangerously illegal.
On assignment in Angola, Ernest is shot. While recovering, Teddy discovers that Ernest has had an endless affair-on-the-road with a NY Times journalist.
That, and Ernie's aloofness during the Soweto student uprising when hundreds of children were gunned down, puts a strain on their relationship. Through the turmoil, Ernie convinces Teddy to explore living in the United States.
Traveling to Ernie's home in California's wine country, they confront the ignorance of Americans about Africa. Ernie’s father, a hardened war veteran who doesn’t hesitate to berate his gay, anti-war son. They flee to San Francisco and find themselves caught in the gay White Night Riots where Teddy is beaten.
Teddy decides he would prefer the violence and racism of South Africa than that of America. And they settle into an improving South Africa until Teddy discovers that Ernie has been enjoying the freedoms within Johannesburg's integrated Butterfly Bar, without Teddy. Teddy and his friends storm the bar and confront Ernie as he chats up a Black gay activist. And after twenty years together, Teddy decides Ernie cannot be trusted, and they eventually depart ways.
But the AIDS epidemic hits, and their mutual friends and family members perish which pulls them, reluctantly, together. They slowly and cautiously rebuild their relationship.
But their biggest challenge came after Nelson Mandela became President and Teddy demanded they rebalance their relationship on an equal footing, shedding the sham master and servant roles that allowed them to be together.
They managed to remain together as partners and lovers for 51 years.
This story is inspired by and dedicated to two remarkable gentlemen, who, if they are still alive today, would be in their nineties.
Austin Film Festival Coverage
Concept: Your Own God is a historical drama that is both personal and epic, covering an interracial gay couple over 50 years in South Africa. The incredible historical and personal details of the characters and the honesty of the dialogue set this script apart.
Plot: The writer really brings the world of South Africa in the 1960s to the present day to life through the remarkable relationship of two men, Teddy (a straightlaced Black South African furniture dealer) and Ernie (a white freewheeling American war correspondent). The story often ventures outside the bounds of traditional plotting, but the wide scope of historical events, and unique relationship of the characters usually overcome this.
Structure: The story is presented as flashbacks from the point of view of Teddy and Ernie in the present day. Although this is initially a little jarring, this story is never boring and we are invested in the story to the end.
Characters: The characters are one of the script’s strengths. Teddy and Ernie are real and well developed; even though we may initially not always understand what keeps them coming back together, they feel like real people, who are often unpredictable, rather than characters who act in a way the plot demands them to. The secondary characters are all well developed and interesting, particularly Teddy’s family and the friends who come to live as staff in Teddy and Ernie’s home.
Dialogue: The dialogue is well written, the profanity and use of slang and language makes the characters and time periods come alive. The writer usually succeeds in striking a balance between realistic dialogue and informing the audience about the political, social, and historical circumstances the characters are in as the story jumps further ahead in time.
Overall: Your Own God is a fascinating story that is epic and personal, and touches on fifty-plus years of incredible history. The writer clearly knows that this story has to be both about the relationship between two men and the astonishing period of social and political upheaval they lived through. For the most part, the narrative strikes a pretty good balance.
Teddy and Ernie are both well developed characters with realistic dialogue. The supporting characters, particularly Teddy’s family and the friends who come to live in the house as “staff” are also well drawn and interesting.
There is plenty of conflict, which keeps the story interesting and moving forward, but after the third time that Ernie and Teddy reconcile it’s clear that their relationship is never really in much danger. This makes the interludes with Darryl seem less significant, though that relationship could be another script on its own.