Question One: Film Review

Question One Documentary - H 2012

Question One Documentary - H 2012

Straightforward doc offers balanced look at same-sex marriage battle.  

Joe Fox and James Nubile get good access to both sides in the fight over same-sex marriage in Maine.

Taking a War Room approach to the debate over gay marriage, Joe Fox and James Nubile's Question One goes behind the scenes with campaigns promoting and opposing a 2009 referendum in Maine that, in the end, overturned that state's law granting same-sex couples the right to marry. The doc offers little to further the national discussion on this divisive topic, but its evenhandedness and unstrident tone will go down well with viewers accustomed to more heated treatments of it.

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Few viewers will doubt that the filmmakers are on the side of gay rights, but the law's opponents should feel they were well represented here, as the camera follows them without commentary into small meetings in churches and big political rallies brewing support for their cause. In fact, this side in some ways benefits most from the film: While viewers will have seen plenty of interviews with deeply committed gay and lesbian couples who just want to tie the knot, we've rarely seen as human a side of gay-marriage opponents as we do in interviews with Marc Mutty, leader of the Yes On One campaign: When not at rallies, Mutty admits he didn't choose to lead this campaign and is unhappy his Catholic superiors thrust it on him. In strategy sessions, Mutty has issues with his colleagues' hyperbolic talking points; in his daily life, he hates that he's now viewed as the local bigot.

But Mutty could have said no, and on election night his ambivalence goes in another direction: He resents that Frank Schubert (whose California PR firm spearheaded Proposition 8 and has worked on many similar initiatives) is taking all the credit for the referendum's success.

One imagines Mutty's qualms will elicit few tears among the state's GLBT community. The most compelling figure on this side of the debate is Darlene Huntress -- seen first in a 1986 wedding video, giving a toast for her sister the bride. Years later, Huntress admits she hadn't thought such a day would ever happen for her; but when the legal right was given to her by her state and then threatened by outsiders, she became manager of field operations for No On One.

Others on Huntress's side are shown, pointedly, going to church, emphasizing that this isn't a Christians-vs-Heathen issue. That fact will be lost on the subset of Christians who want America's laws to define "marriage" the way they think the Bible does, but -- even though that side won this round -- Question One leaves viewers with the impression that the tide will change before long.

Production Company: Fly on the Wall Productions

Directors: Joe Fox, James Nubile

Screenwriter: Joe Fox

Music: Mark Adler

No rating, 87 minutes