Filmmaking | Interviews

History in the Making

1 Apr , 2005  

Written by Tina L. Hoskins | Posted by:

Co-Filmmakers Henry Corra and Charlene Rule talk about their insightful documentary 'Same Sex America,' screening this month at The 3rd Annual Independent Film Festival of Boston.

On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling; "to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry is to deny them dignity and equality under law." The court ordered the state to begin issuing marriage licenses within six months, and on May 17, 2004 same sex marriage became legal.

"Daddy can marry Papa, and Mommy can marry Mama and it’s not civil disobedience, it’s real marriage." One lesbian couple shouted as the first gay couple emerged from the Boston County Court House legally married, and waving their certificate of marriage high above for the entire crowd of equal rights supporters, and for those who strongly opposed same sex marriage to behold. "Same Sex America" is a compelling personal documentary that follows the emotional journey of seven gay and lesbian couples as they fight for their equal rights in an explosive historical making showdown at The Massachusetts’ Constitutional Convention. It was both provocative and awe-inspiring to witness history-making democracy in full-blown action.

Before making "Same Sex America," director Henry Corra started his own production company, Corra Films, Inc. that has become a mainstay of the independent film, art and music culture of downtown New York City. Corra is best known for his groundbreaking documentary features, "Frames" (2004), which he co-directed with filmmaker Charlene Rule, "George" (2000) and "Umbrellas" (1994).

Charlene Rule’s previous collaboration with Henry Corra, Frames, premiered at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. Her films have screened at Anthology Film Archives, NYC, Void, NYC, Remote Lounge, NYC and the Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid.

"Same Sex America" will be screening this month at the IFF of Boston. NewEnglandFilm.com reached out to the NYC based filmmakers to find out about the film.

Tina Hoskins: While watching "Same Sex America," I was riveted from the opening scene to the close. What inspired you to make this documentary?

Henry Corra: I made this film, because I saw it as a huge chapter in civil rights history, and I saw it as an extremely compelling story. It’s not just about gay rights, but also about love, marriage, and commitment.

Charlene Rule: I found it to be a compelling story. I’m surprised that at this point in time this is something that we need to be paying attention to. I’m surprised it was an issue, and it intrigued me that it was a fight that was really going on, and continues to do so.

TH: The film addressed so many issues besides same sex marriage; interracial relationships, biracial children, single gay parent adoption, and raising children in a gay household. How and why did you decide to focus on those particular couples, and did they express concern about the possible backlash on their family members?

Corra & Rule: No, I don’t think they did.

Corra: They all had a personal stake in this as well as a political one. Everyone all seemed extremely ready, willing, and able to participate. Why did we choose these particular families… well I thought it was really important for people to see that they were real people, real parents with real families, and great marriages. These were people who loved each other, and who are really strong parents with strong family values.

Rule: I don’t think we thought that much about the demographic or what we were trying to cover. I think we were just intrigued by these people’s commitment. In terms of them worrying about any backlash, I think at this point I would say for all the couples they finally got what they deserved, and have wanted. I don’t think they were concerned about what they couldn’t have at this point.

Corra: Although it’s bittersweet.

Rule: Right.

Corra: Because it could all be taken away from them in 2006.

Rule: So it’s a suspended kind of answer for them.

TH: How did you manage to capture the realism of all the people involved? In other words, the film captured the real passion of the couples, their families and all those who completely oppose same sex marriage?

Corra: Well, there are so many answers to that question. One is in the casting. In a sense we go out like journalist/casting agents to look for real people, extraordinary people. People you what to spend time with, people we want to spend time with, people we like, people we’re really interested in no matter which side of the political fence they were on in this film it still had to be people we were really interested in spending time with, and liked.

Second, as opposed to interviewing them in a short period of time like what you see on the news (quick interviews with people) we really log in the time with the characters. We were with them day and night jumping from family to family over the course of a nine-month period. It’s a very immersive process. So if there is any kind of nervousness or camera awareness or performing for the camera or stiltedness, because of the camera, it tends to melt away when you spend that much time with somebody. Finally, the editing process plays a huge roll. You tend to use the more real and heightened moments.

Rule: Henry and I are really interested in hearing people’s stories, and on either side of this situation it was really important for us to see the sincerity and the passion that both side had. So I think that’s what we look for.

TH: If you were speaking to a group of budding documentary filmmakers, what advice would you share with them?

Corra: Go into fiction! (Laughs) There’s more money.

Rule: Less time.

Corra: Go to NYU Film School, and learn how to operate in Hollywood.

Corra: That’s a very difficult question. This may be corny, but at this particular moment in time, I would say personalize it, and pay attention to the esthetics.

TH: What’s next for "Same Sex America," and Corra Films?

Corra: "Same Sex America" is going to be shown at the Full Frame Documentary Festival, which is a very big and prestigious Documentary Festival in North Carolina next month, also at the Independent Film Festival of Boston the 21st – 24th, and then a few days later it premiers at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, and then it has its national television premiere on Showtime in June during gay pride week. Corra film is known for its documentary films, because of the quality, craft of them, and the care that goes into them. The way this whole business survives is also through our real people spot making for television, and those kinds of projects. It’s kind of schizophrenic in this place; we’ll have a same sex marriage documentary in one room, and a commercial for Gateway Computers in the next. So those two worlds still continue here at Corra Films.

Rule: I guess the key here, and I don’t know if we brought it up specifically, is that we went into this film not being political, and that’s partly why we could get both sides to open up to us. We really came in wanting to know peoples stories, and that’s an important motive I think in trying to make it more real.

TH: One last question… Do you support same sex marriage, and why?

Corra: I do. I support same sex marriage, because I just think anybody should be able to marry anybody they love.

Rule: I want to think less about people’s sexuality, and more about humanity and people’s rights. I think that’s what I support, if people want to have rights they should have them.

For more information about the film, visit www.corrafilms.com. ‘Same Sex America’ will screen on April 21st – 24th, 2005 as part of the Independent Film Festival of Boston. For more information on the festival, visit www.ifsboston.org.


For more information about the film, visit www.corrafilms.com. 'Same Sex America' will screen on April 21st - 24th, 2005 as part of the Independent Film Festival of Boston. For more information on the festival, visit www.ifsboston.org.