Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jason goes to Docfest--Day 7

For those keeping score at home, yes I skipped day 6. I was at a top secret film club in...an undisclosed location. This (last Wednesday) was also my last day of Docfest for this year, as I have a more important family obligation.

First up, we started with a short film HANGING DOWNTOWN, a brief profile of Jason Escape, a Boston comedian/magician/escape artist/street performer. As the highlight of his act, he is bound in a strait jacket and tied in thick ropes and then hung upside-down 20 feet in the air as he escapes. Pretty wild act, and a pretty interesting guy.

That was the lead-in to WITHOUT A NET, a term which could describe both the circus acts  and the lives of the various young performers in a "social circus" in the ghetto of Rio de Janiero. The circus tent was put up in an abandoned parking lot (since the making of the movie it has been moved to make way for infrastructure for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, and is also under new management.) The owners run the circus and teach circus performing to the youth in the neighborhood as a way to give them self-confidence and keep them away from the drugs and violence of the favela. It's a nice behind-the-scenes look at making the show, but the show is almost secondary from the difficult lives from which the kids are using the circus as an escape. And, it's important to note, more often than not it's a temporary escape. Some go on to professional careers, but for the most part one year later everyone is still just struggling to survive. In a way, it seems a little naive to think that a circus will somehow solve all their problems. And it doesn't...but it is a rare positive element to their lives, and that's important in and of itself.

And then the second show I caught was MARRIED AND COUNTING, the epic love story of Pat Dwyer and Stephen Mosher. Sweethearts since college (in North Texas) they've been together nearly 25 years. And while there are a few places in the U.S.A. where they can get married, in most states they can't. And even if they did, the federal government under DOMA wouldn't recognize it, nor would it force any other state to recognize it (at the time of the beginning of the film, their home state of New York would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states, but didn't sanction their own--that changes midway through the film.) So they decide to celebrate their 25 years together by getting married in every state that will allow it (note: civil unions don't count) culminating on their 25th anniversary with a wedding in Washington D.C. on the steps of the Supreme Court. But the politics really takes a back seat to the personal. The two of them fretting over being late to the clerk's office in Vermont for their marriage license is no different than any other couple's wedding jitters (well, I guess it's a little difference, because they had to drive to another state.) You could easily call this an example of making the political personal. But for me they do such an amazing job of opening up their lives and love to the audience that it really highlights the absurd injustice of making their personal lives politcal.

And I want to leave it at that (and add a shout-out to George Takei as the narrator.) It's a beautiful, personal story. So the rest of this post just happens to be a related political rant that is my personal view and is far more strident than anything actually in the film.

I support same-sex marriage (in case you couldn't already tell.) And I prefer to call it marriage instead of "civil union" or "domestic partnership." With that said, for many years I have taken the position that those who support the same rights for same-sex couples but want to keep the word "marriage" for heterosexual couples are allies on this issues. Rights are more important than words, and as long as this is still a fight for rights I'm willing to be flexible on the words. If I could snap my fingers and make same-sex civil unions (with all the rights and privileges of marriage, just not the word) the law of the land across the country, I would consider the battle won and not worry about the words. This has been my position for many years, and continues to be my position. But I don't believe it's the ideal, I believe it's a reasonable goal given the current political climate (heck, even George W. Bush has shown acceptance of civil unions.) It's reasonable to believe universal legal status of civil unions--equal to that of marriage--is an achievable goal and we shouldn't let perfect be the enemy of good by insisting on the word "marriage" (even if it's a preferable word.)

With that said, I would ask everyone who backs civil unions but balks at calling same-sex unions "marriages" consider this: Would you back a law that redefines murder so that the killing of an African American is punishable exactly the same as a "real" murder, but is officially called "nigger-killing?" The legal prohibition on nigger-killing would be exactly the same as, and carry the same punishments, as murder, so all the same legal rights and protections exist, the difference is purely in the word that is used. I suspect most of you are offended by my suggestion (if you're not, kindly get the fuck out of here.) I also suspect many of you will (rightly) find fault with my metaphor (for one, "civil union" was never meant as an epithet.) But I offer this example as a simple illustration of the fact that WORDS... ARE... IMPORTANT.

Total Running Time: 168 minutes
My Total Minutes: 304,259
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