Sun-flares threaten to obstruct our view as they move in and out of the screen in the opening shots of Married in Spandex
, but nothing can outshine the smiles on the two beautiful women's faces that come into focus.
Meet Amanda and Rachel, the subjects behind Married in Spandex, the award-winning documentary coming to The Source Theater this Saturday, August 4th. From the onset, one thing is apparent above all else; Amanda and Rachel are in love. They're standing outside of the Story County Courthouse in Iowa -- 1,086 miles away from home -- captured just minutes before walking into that very building to apply for a marriage license; something their state of Pennsylvania, doesn’t allow same-sex couples to do. “How do you feel?” you hear a voice off-screen ask Rachel, “Elated” she replies amidst a fit of giggles.
“Marriage is about finding someone to build a life with” explains Amanda a few moments later. This aren't novel remarks, these are exactly the kinds of things you would expect (or at least hope) to hear coming out of the mouths of any two people about to get married, anywhere.
Some people never find that person -- someone to “have and to hold from this day forward” -- to deny any single person who may have, is not only cruel, but is an absolute violation of their rights. After all, marriage stopped being an issue of solely religious constitution the minute getting married awarded citizens benefits at the federal level. Furthermore, shouldn't we as a society be protecting, encouraging, and fostering love and commitment -- in all it's shapes and forms? Yet we continue to deny a large fraction of the population the right to marry. But I digress, after all, this film isn't so much an advocacy piece for gay-marriage as it is a glimpse into the lives of any two people as they prepare for their big day. By the end of the film, you no longer see Amanda and Rachel as a gay couple, but as just two regular people dealing with the stresses of a wedding -- and that subtlety makes a powerful case for LGBT equality.
Documentaries with messages this subtle rarely come along, and even more rarely are they able to move us the way Married in Spandex does. Perhaps it owes it's success in this regard to the fact that it was never supposed to be a real documentary to begin with (i.e. the film was born of serendipity; it wasn't forced). The road to Iowa was not an easy one for these young amoureux; which is in large part how what started out as a just a "wedding video present” for Amanda by her sister, turned into what it is today. That's right: the film was co-directed by Amanda's sister, Allison Kole.
“I think it dawned on me eventually that this wasn't a normal experience for most people and that it should be captured in some greater way” recalled Allison when describing the turning point in her and her partner Devin Gallagher's decision to flush the story out. Through interviews with family and friends, Devin and Allison fill you in on how the girls met and their respective backgrounds, later transitioning into cinéma vérité, taking the audience through the wedding planning, the road trip, and ultimately the day itself. “We were on a ride and we wanted to take the audience with us," Allison explains.
So why are the girls dragging friends and family such a long distance to obtain a license that will be null and void once they return to Philadelphia, and why the spandex? It's these questions friends and family ask to determine the sincerity of the girls actions, and with this central conflict the movie's heart beats. Not everyone is in support of their decision to get married, and surprisingly it's mostly their friends -- the majority of which are gay -- who are against the idea of marriage fundamentally (one calls it “classist and oppressive”).
“To explain to someone why we're getting married in the manner that we are is really hard to do -- to say 'we're gonna get married in gold spandex by our favorite performer in Iowa'...yeah...” remarks Rachel. Enter Leslie Hall, the incredibly eccentric performance-artist “lady rapper” who just so happens to be Amanda and Rachel's favorite singer, and who also just so happens to wear only spandex body suits, and who also just so happens to perform same-sex marriages. So it's off to Iowa they go, to celebrate who they are and what marriage ultimately means to them -- a symbol and expression of their unique love for one another. If you're going to have a wedding for purely symbolic purposes, you might as well make ceremony ooze with personal reflection -- hence, wear gold spandex costumes like Leslie and have a totally “theme” wedding. Chaos ensues.
The laughter, the stolen glances, the awkward moments, the dancing, the tears, it's all there in the end. The wedding is a blast and a total success in the brides' eyes (you must see it in order believe just how wild and fun it ceremony turn out to be, they even dress up their pet chihuahua in a pink tutu). Regardless of your views on marriage, Married in Spandex merits viewership for the honest glimpse it offers into the lives of others, and the perspective it offers on both the broad and specific issues it involves. Ultimately, the experience even led the filmmakers to decide to use the film for LGBT advocacy.
“[In the beginning] we were struggling because we're a straight couple making a film about gay marriage” Devin summarizes, “and our initial goal was not to go into the political side of things, we weren't necessarily politically active at the time-- we just wanted to make a film about Amanda and Rachel -- but then it was really a challenge, especially for Allison when hearing about Amanda's coming out story for the first time, it was really emotional for her,” he continues. “And then it was surprising to hear the nuanced viewpoints about marriage within the gay community, but untimely a lot of people ended up bonding over the wedding."
A portion of proceeds from Saturday's screening will go to The DC Center, a safe, supportive, and educational place for the LGBT community in the greater Washington area.