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BOY ERASED

A Note From Director Joel Edgerton
I first met Garrard Conley at a Brooklyn cafe on a cold afternoon in February 2017. Since that first day, the goal of this film has always been to bring raise awareness about the harmful effects of conversion therapy and to give Garrard's personal story its true justice on screen.

As a child, my greatest fears and foundations for my early nightmares was any situation that took away my freedom: War, prison, cults, alien abduction or being separated from my parents. These prospects also became the foundation for my simple prayers as a young boy introduced to Catholicism.

As a film watcher and maker, these stories still strike their chord in me. That fear of loss of freedom was the thing that drew me to Boy Erased when my producer Kerry Kohansky-Roberts suggested I read it. And sure enough, it was all there - but there was something more. That something more made me want to take on Garrard's story and bring it to the screen.

His story of injustice, this memoir that laid out the catalogued his loss of freedom, the judgments he faced, and his struggle for acceptance was infused with so much love, the pain that came from deep love, and a great confusion. The very real life drama that exists when people's agendas are completely opposed and confused. And, yet, among it all an incredible predicament lay at its center... no-one who opposed Garrard was trying to be a bad person. Everyone believed they were doing the right thing.

So, driven to visualize Garrard's story I tasked myself with honoring it truthfully. I was determined to take into consideration every characters position and beliefs. No painting people as villains where they were not. It felt too easy and dishonest. No doubt, given the events framed in Boy Erased certain days were going to be difficult and emotional for cast and crew but it was important for us to stay in the space of honesty and its truth. The journey would be worth it because, ultimately, Garrard's real life story landed in a place of hope. Foremost was his own evolution and drive to forge his own identity and future, despite opposition... and as a result, those around him were forced to face an evolution in a positive direction. He in his own right has converted opinion.

As part of my early interior world as mentioned above, it made sense that One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest became one of my favorite films. Interesting to note that while the film was made in '75, the book was written in 62, five years before the banning of lobotomies in the United States. That novel, like Garrard's memoir was shining a light on questionable practices. We have made the film at a time when the unsanctioned practice of conversion therapy still exists across the country.

If we do our job with this movie, we have the chance to create a bigger discussion about something that needs awareness. Conversion therapy, in general, takes many different forms. It's in hundreds of different countries. There are many different iterations of it. Some of them are religious-based, some secular. Some of them combine psychotherapy. The one constant in all of this is that conversion therapy is incredibly harmful.

But like all prison stories and institution films, at its core, it is about the desire to be free. For freedom itself in all forms is about acceptance. It's not just for those that have been exposed to conversion therapy in their life but also their families. I hope that this message really resonates with parents who are dealing with their own problems of acceptance towards their children. Sexuality is not a choice or something that can be fixed or learned, fortunately acceptance is something that can.

This process has taught me so much about loving others and in turn about myself. It brought me in contact with the most incredible amount of passionate, open-minded and loving people. It has opened my eyes and heart to different worlds that I didn't know existed. It made me reevaluate my sense of faith and reinforced my commitment to acceptance. As audiences watch Boy Erased, I hope they can physically feel how much passion went into this project. That even though we may be different from one another, the one intrinsic human emotion we share is love. Love will always prevail, love will always win and that is what this film is all about.

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