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Watch It and Weep: Film Spotlights S.F.'s Same-Sex Weddings
By Erin O'Briant
Local film producer Lennlee Keep is close to tears as she describes the honor it was to create Marry Me: Stories from the San Francisco Weddings, an hour-long documentary that will premiere in the Bay Area at the Tiburon International Film Festival on Monday, March 14. The film follows four same-sex couples through their weddings at San Francisco City Hall during the brief time in 2004 when gay marriages were legal in San Francisco.
"Here they were able to do this--something that in some cases they'd wanted to do their whole lives," she explains, referring to the couples' longtime struggle to be recognized as equal members of society. "They never thought it would be a reality."
In addition to filming their ceremonies, Keep interviews the two lesbian and two gay male couples--about their relationships, families, children, histories, and, of course, their wedding experiences.
"Everyone in the film had a story that made me want to cry," says Keep, who recommends that moviegoers bring a handkerchief. A year later, she remains close friends with two of the couples in the documentary.
Marry Me also documents the extraordinary outpouring of kindness the couples received from friends, marriage officiants, and other San Francisco residents, many of whom were strangers. Audiences will witness the intense joy of the occasion, Keep says, and the deep love shared by the newly married partners.
Noe Valleyans will be reminded of the part neighborhood merchants played in the festivities when they see an interview with Michael Gassen, owner of Noe Valley Bakery and Bread Company on 24th Street. Shortly after the marriages became legal on Feb. 12, 2004, Gassen began making wedding cakes, topped with either two male dolls or two female dolls.
"We do a lot of wedding cakes, and we thought it would be nice to call attention to what was going on," Gassen says in the film. "We bought some special cake toppers that were really cute and put them in the window."
Marry Me was made by Santa Fe Productions, a small film company comprised of three people: producer Keep; executive producer Anthony Tiano; and director, editor, and cameraman Eli Brown. Keep conducts the interviews in the film, but remains off-camera.
Keep lives and works in San Francisco from her home at Dolores and 21st streets, while Brown lives in New York City and Tiano makes his home in Albuquerque, N.M.
The film, which was completed in September, was a labor of love for them all, Keep says. "When we're not doing this, we do a lot of programs for PBS and A&E--we have our hands in a little bit of everything."
Over the past six months, Marry Me has screened at the Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the Dallas Out Takes Film Festival, the Detroit Docs Festival, the Freedom Cinema Film Festival, and the Phoenix Out Far Film Festival.
Keep says she and her partners at Santa Fe Productions are eagerly awaiting news on other national and international bookings, including the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in June. "The film has gotten a great reception," says Keep. "People tell us it captures the feeling of what it was like to be there."
California State Senator Carole Migden, who officiated some of the ceremonies shown in the documentary, will introduce the film at the Tiburon premiere, which starts at 7:25 p.m.
Those who attend the screening may also get to enjoy a wedding-style reception afterwards, Keep says. "It's really just an excuse for me to eat a cupcake from the Noe Valley Bakery," she jokes.
To find out more about the Tiburon International Film Festival or to buy tickets, visit www.tiburonfilmfestival.com or call 415-381-4123.