Film by Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares focuses on bravery, brilliance of California's first four openly-gay legislators
Co-director Jonah Markowitz (center) raises a glass before the world premiere of "Political Animals." He is surrounded by key talent from the film, including (to his immediate left) former Cal. State Senator Christine Kehoe and (in red jacket) LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, two of the main subjects of the doc. 6/4/16 Photo by Matt Carey
The LA Film Festival drew to a close today, but not before one important piece of business was attended to -- the awarding of prizes.
Political Animals, co-directed by Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares, earned the top jury prize for documentary, as well as the audience award. The film focuses on California's first four openly-gay state representatives, Sheila Kuehl, Jackie Goldberg, Carole Migden and Christine Kehoe, and the vital role they played in advancing LGBT rights, not just in their state but nationwide.
We witnessed all this vitriolic hate and insults just being hurled at the four women in this film.
In the 90s these women began their civil rights campaign arguing for what seems like very modest legislation -- to protect gay youth from harassment in schools. But at every turn they met stiff opposition, sometimes from conservative opponents quoting Scripture. Markowitz and Wares went through hours of footage of the floor debate over the Student Safety and Violence Act.
"We witnessed all this vitriolic hate and insults just being hurled at the four women in this film trying to secure very basic human civil rights for the LGBT community. What they were up against was guys bringing in Bibles on the floor of the Assembly," Markowitz told Nonfictionfilm.com. "They were battling on the floor of that Assembly. I mean it was a battle. And they were fighting for the things most important to them and their families and their loved ones."
"I think it's really important to see how far we've come and how quickly that has happened," Wares told NFF. "Yet at the same time -- even though now gay marriage has been made legal by the Supreme Court -- there's still a lot of states where people are being discriminated against and there's still a lot of work to be done. You can still have discrimination in employment, housing, things that really do affect people's everyday lives."
Political Animals will be playing at a number of festivals over the summer, including the Provincetown International Film Festival on June 16th and Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, on June 19th [in the historic Castro Theatre}.
"We'll have a couple of other festivals we'll be able to announce soon," Markowitz promised NFF. He recommended keeping on eye on screening opportunities at the film's website, politicalanimalsdoc.com.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.