Review by Sean Bugg
Rating: (3 out of 5)
Sunday, 10/19/2008, 1:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at 6th & I Synagogue
IN 2004, A FEW months after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made news and history by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, I had the chance to meet and interview him at a D.C. fundraiser. What struck me most as he worked the gay crowd was how frankly adoring they were — not because he’s gregariously friendly or classically good looking, though he’s both, but because they viewed him as a genuine hero.
Pursuit of Equality continues that adulatory approach toward San Francisco’s straight sensation. Filmmaker Geoff Callan, Newsom’s brother-in-law, was given access to the entire process leading up to the announcement of the city’s marriage policy and through the chaotic and emotional scenes that unfolded in City Hall as gay and lesbian couples lined up for their chance to be married.
While much of the documentary does focus on Newsom and the political maneuverings of his staff as they try to advance his agenda, the more interesting parts of the film deal with the actual experience of the people trying to marry. If nothing else, we should be glad that someone filmed Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon as they became the first couple married under the San Francisco effort. Martin, who died this year, also features in a short and poignant coda for the film.
In the chaos at City Hall, between anti-gay protestors attempting to block access for gay couples and the media-hogging appearance of Rosie O’Donnell, Callan manages to capture some of elation of the experience, as well as the despair of some who found themselves denied a license when the courts shut down the process.
Although Pursuit of Equality too often feels like a paean to one man’s efforts, it remains a feel-good chronicle of how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go.