PORTLAND, Maine — The head of a 2009 campaign to repeal gay marriage legislation in Maine is depicted in a new documentary as being conflicted about advertisements warning that the law essentially would force homosexuality to be taught in schools. Marc Mutty also is shown as bothered by the role a California-based public relations firm played in the Maine campaign.
New York filmmakers Joe Fox and James Nubile held a media screening of their 90-minute documentary “Question One” on Monday morning at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland. The film follows the two campaigns on opposite sides of 2009’s Question 1, which asked Maine voters whether a recently passed law allowing gay marriage should be repealed.
“A lot of people wake up [the morning after Election Day] and see the results, but they don’t realize what went into those results,” Nubile said Monday morning. “The passive observer might think it’s a film about gay marriage when it’s really about people devoting their lives to this issue. … I think they’re people of strong beliefs on both sides and they weren’t shy about expressing themselves.”
The repeal ultimately passed at the polls with 53 percent in favor and 47 percent against.
While most of the figures in the film are shown making what are now well-known — but passionate — arguments for and against gay marriage, the documentary shows Mutty, chairman of the successful “Yes on One” campaign, as being conflicted about aspects of the campaign. He is shown behind the scenes questioning the accuracy of his group’s advertisements and grumbling about the heavy role of Frank Schubert of Schubert Flint Public Affairs, who led the efforts to block gay marriages in California a year earlier. Mutty, who took a leave of absence as spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland to lead the 2009 campaign, also worried about his legacy in the aftermath of the campaign.
“I am certainly proud to work in defense of marriage,” Mutty is recorded as saying in the documentary, “but I’m not particularly fond of being remembered as the star bigot in Maine — the one who led the charge to deny gays and lesbians their fundamental rights — which is how it’ll be painted, I fear.”
Mutty told the Bangor Daily News Monday afternoon he regrets some of the comments he made in the film but said others shown in the video clips were only small parts of larger conversations.
“The full story may be on the cutting room floor,” Mutty said. “I saw [the filmmakers] more often than I saw my family, so we’ve got a lot of footage to work from, and of course the filmmakers are looking for the dramatic. They’re looking for stuff that sells and captures the interest of the public.”
In the film, Mutty questions the “hyperbole” in advertisements suggesting allowance of gay marriage will force the topic of homosexuality into public classrooms full of young children. In the documentary, he winces about the ads and tells his fellow campaign staff he’s worried they’re “not completely accurate.” Later in the film, he admits frustration that Schubert tried running the campaign from across the country and then took credit for the victory after the votes were tallied.
Reflecting on the campaign Monday, Mutty defended his comments questioning the classroom-themed ads as being meant to engage staff members in a discussion of strategy and acknowledged regret about airing complaints about Schubert.
As for his recorded misgivings about Schubert, he added that it was “inappropriate and very unprofessional to speak that in front of the camera.”
On Monday, the filmmakers didn’t disagree that there was a lot of footage that didn’t make the final cut. Fox said the duo shot 260 hours of footage, but suggested the clips that ended up on the cutting room floor would be found to reinforce the clips included in the documentary, which was named best documentary last week at the Reel Independent Film Extravaganza in Washington, D.C.
Fox said the filmmakers’ goal was to capture the historic moment surrounding the referendum and to illustrate “the humanity and soul and essence of both sides.”
The documentary closely follows Mutty, Pastor Bob Emrich and campaign volunteer Linda Seavey in the “Yes on 1” side, and campaign head Jesse Connolly, field organizer Darlene Huntress and volunteer Sarah Dowling on the “No on 1” side.
Public screenings of the movie begin Friday at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville, where 7 p.m. showings will be held every night until Nov. 3. Cinemagic in South Portland will hold a 7 p.m. screening on Nov. 3 and the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hallat will screen the film at 7 p.m. Nov. 7.
For information or additional screening times as they’re added, visit www.q1-themovie.com.