Marriage equality hits the silver screen at the San Diego Film Festival

12 Sep 2008

Directors, community leaders raise awareness regarding Proposition 8
by Rick Braatz

It all began with a phone call from the then recently-elected San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
"[In 2004] Gavin called me at home and asked [co-director] Mike Shaw and I to film the first same-sex wedding in the U.S.A. between Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon," said Geoff Callan, one of the film's co-directors.

The directors didn't realize the political implications of the impending union.
"We had no idea that as they exchanged their vows, that this moment would ignite the most controversial civil rights topic in recent history," Callan said.
For the next 19 months, the filmmakers kept the cameras rolling in and around San Francisco City Hall.
"...[W]e continued on, in the streets, in the courtrooms, and found ourselves the only film crew in the actual mayor's chambers during the most crucial of times during this monumental event," said co-director Mike Shaw.

Pursuit of Equality, a documentary, follows Newsom and his senior staff in 2004 as he issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Newsom's actions ignited a state and national debate and legal fight over same-sex marriage. The film will be screened at the annual San Diego Film Festival Sept. 25-28 at the Gaslamp Theatre.
"We believe that we have created a film that will bring people together and provide a deeper understanding of civil liberties and current-day discrimination," Callan said.
The film depicts Newsom as both a "real person" and leader.
"This film will separate what a politician is and what a true public servant is and there is a difference," said San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez, chair of the city's Human Relations Commission. "A public servant who is elected to office does the right thing. A public servant does not gauge the political spectrum for his future. The politician would have never of taken the stand that Gavin Newsom did."

Murray-Ramirez will present the film with Benjamin Dillingham III, Carlos Malamud and the Imperial Court de San Diego, all sponsors of the event, at the film festival. Callan, who will attend the festival, has encouraged Newsom to make a guest appearance.
"I talked to him last night. He is going to try. I'm trying to get him to get out of a meeting on Sunday so he can attend. So we'll see," Callan said.
Jared Davis, a local filmmaker, is organizing an event to promote Pursuit of Equality at Hawthorn's Restaurant Lounge in North Park on Sept. 15.
"I wanted to get awareness out about it also, in case anyone has ever thought ... their vote isn't important on the Prop 8 issue," Davis said
Davis will also be showing a trailer for his short film called Residue, about the CIA's involvement in Cambodia in the 1970s. It will also be screened at the film festival.

Until recently, Pursuit of Equality had only been screened at select movie theaters or film festivals with annual updates.
In early 2008, however, after the California Supreme Court decided to hear the case, Callan and Shaw decided to release the film independently.
"Once the Supreme Court decided that they were going to hear the case, that's when the directors decided to release the film independently through organizations, schools, and groups," Callan said.
After releasing the film, the directors started their "awareness screenings" or screenings of the film to promote the issue of same-sex marriage and the state proposition, Proposition 8, which, if passed, will ban same-sex marriage in California.
"Awareness screenings are about the issue, not so much about the film. The film is a tool to educate," Callan said.