Parents of lesbians and gays share their experiences
"Is my son actually what I think he is?" Sooner or later, for some reason or other, a parent will find him or herself asking this question. This documentary looks straight into the heart of the family as it adjusts to the news that their son or daughter is homosexual. Through the delicate process of listening, Parents Reborn delves into the phase in which mothers and fathers cope with their crushed expectations and begin to accept their own rebirth as parents, aside from the issue of homosexuality itself. After the first shock and sense of loss, but also of guilt, the entire family finds itself on uncharted territory, as parents make new inroads not only with their children, but also with their own parents. As the generations resume communication, love leads to greater awareness, but it is not enough: now this families lay themselves on the line with extraordinary frankness and intensity, their new experiences providing universal insights into generational understanding.

Director's note
This documentary took shape in response to the growing request from members of the AGEDO parents group, who saw a lack of focus on what happens within families when gay sons and daughters come out. This issue had never been dealt with in Italy, and the biennial Daphne II «Family Matters» program offered an ideal opportunity to film a documentary, as part of a wider program of research and intervention in support of families with homosexual daughters and sons, involving two other partner countries.
Filmed entirely in Italy, the documentary is part of the varied input the AGEDO provides to the ongoing Daphne project. The idea for the film came up in 2002, and when the Daphne project was launched in 2006, the first phase of intricate planning was initiated, followed by the phase of interviews and meetings with groups of parents conducted by Lucia Bonuccelli (psychologist), and Francesco Pivetta (teacher and instructor).
As the film’s director, I aimed to be as unobtrusive as possible during these often delicate sessions with the groups and families.
Following on from «No Two Alike: Adolescence and Homosexuality», this film posed an altogether different challenge. This time I had to cross sides and see things from the point of view of a parent, as well as that of a son. Where before my personal experience had guided me during the filming of the previous documentary on young lesbians and gays coming out, this time I had to alter my focus on all the proceedings. What I discovered was completely unexpected, and gave me new insights into the complex and fragile world of parenthood. The first impression I had when I listened in on the accounts of parents whose sons and daughters had come out to them, was that they had experienced something very similar: they too had suddenly felt alone, scared of what others might think, and in some ways were at a greater disadvantage than their kids, who had been in a position to build a shield to protect themselves, day by day. Whereas these parents they had no such forewarning or preparation. One fateful day they had suddenly been deprived of their self-assurance, the past they had presumed solid disappeared, their hopes for the future vanished. They were left without bearings, with nothing to guide them. Just how did they handle this rude awakening? How did they cope with the idea that their beloved child was actually a «freak», like some intruder, an unwanted carrier of one of the most dire social stigmas. Someone associated with a taboo that had no place in the world of «decent» people, and even less within the family. Even though some parents were acquainted with homosexuality and its occurrence in nature, they were nevertheless ill-equipped to deal with its unexpected appearance within the household, and found themselves entering unchartered territory. The issue of homosexuality was not part of general education, let alone of the notions of parenting transmitted over the generations.
The film explores this abrupt change of life’s course, from when expectations are brutally dashed by the discovery of their children’s orientation, to the parents’ acceptance, not so much of homosexuality itself as of the need to relive their parenthood, to start from scratch, this time allowing themselves to be guided by the very children for whom they had once represented an infallible support. Here we see mothers and fathers questioning themselves about their role as a parent, admitting a sudden horrific loss of trust and love in their own offspring – for some momentary, for others lasting years – and an unbearable sense of loss, waves of guilt, not to mention terror of what others are going to think. In the aftermath of revelation, for many the shock was soon converted into new energy, and brought an unexpected awareness and a new sense of authenticity, free of all moralizing. Love triumphs, but love itself is not enough: we must put ourselves to the test, which is exactly what these parents did, without holding back. The discovered that their experience barely scratched the surface, and this was only the beginning.
Claudio Cipelletti

Director's biofilmography
Claudio Cipelletti was born in Milano, Italy, in 1962. He first graduated in Architecture at the Milan University, and then at the Cinema School of Milan, direction class. He developed his professional activity both as video editor for corporate videos and as indipendent film maker. His short films and documentaries were presented in several LGBT film festivals round the world. Since 2002 he is editing teacher at the IULM University and at the Cinema and new Media School of Milan.

  • “Pumori '90 - 60' super8 film/BetaSP - documentary about italian himalayan expedition - 1990
  • “Il mondo diviso (The split world) - 12' 16 mm - Italy, 1994
  • “Epitaffio - 30' 16 mm Italy 1994 (co-directed with Ruta, Stambrini, Brusaferri)
  • “Tuttinpiazza - four 60' video documentaries about the italian gay movement - Italy 1994-1997
  • “Altre Storie (“Love Affairs) - 14' 35mm - Italy 1997 (co-directed with Valerio Governi)
  • “Nessuno Uguale” (“No two alike) - 56' documentary - Beta SP - Agedo and Provincia of Milan, 1998
  • “Due volte genitori” (“Parents reborn”) - 96' documentary - Beta SP - Agedo/European Comm. 2008

© 2009 - Claudio Cipelletti for Agedo