News: Chely Wright comes out all over again in ‘Wish Me Away’

Chely Wright documentary Wish Me Away opens in Los, June 16, 2012

“Chely Wright: Wish Me Away” opened Friday in Los Angeles. The film offers an examination of the lesbian country singer’s difficult coming out journey as documented by filmmakers Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf.

The film originally debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival and has garnered numerous awards, including best documentary there and at the Frameline Festival. Jury and audience awards were also collected in Nashville, Palm Springs, Seattle LGBT, Philadelphia Q Fest and Atlanta’s Out on Film, among others.

Birleffi and Kopf, whose prior work on the 2006 documentary “Be Real: Stories From Queer America” had greatly impressed Wright, followed the singer over a three-year period, tracing both her private and public struggles with coming out, as well as the aftermath of her May 2010 revelation to People magazine and “The Today Show.”

Wright was once a hugely popular fixture in Nashville where she lived for 19 years until moving to New York in 2008. But once she unveiled her true self the singer-songwriter says she has been largely rejected by the tight-knit country music capital — and the country music machine in general.

“They just got really silent on me,” remarked Wright.

According to Wright, her record sales fell to around one-third of their previous level, invitations to major country music events dried up, and she has received hate mail and threatening letters. Perhaps most notably, Nashville’s famed Grand Ole Opry, where Wright performed more than 100 times, has yet to ask her back.

Wright’s last album, “Lifted Off the Ground,” released in 2010 in sync with her revelatory media blitz, was greeted by mixed reviews, virtually no airplay on mainstream country radio and weak business.

Wright hopes “Wish Me Away” will challenge its more conservative viewers to rethink their feelings about gays and lesbians.

“I want it to change hearts and minds. I want it to challenge stereotypes,” said Wright, who is writing a new country album. “I also hope that people who don’t think that they know anybody like me might come across it and realize that you don’t have to be gay to believe in the equality movement — you just have to be human.”

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