Limited Partnership (2014) | Savannah Film Festival

SPOILER ALERT:

{For every film and short that I attend at the festival I will be including both a brief, unspoiled synopsis, followed by a spoiler filled discussion beneath it. So be warned before you read-on that if you do not wish to spoil any of the following titles, then please watch for my included warnings.}

So hi, everybody, and welcome to the first entry of my week long personal coverage of the 17th annual Savannah International Film Festival. I would have gone to the opening ceremony on Saturday evening, but due to some homework I had to complete, I was unable to attend. But my experience of the festival has been off to a good start nonetheless, so I am very thankful for that.

Before I talk about the main film today, I first have to talk about the short film that premiered before it, because quite a few of the films that I attend will include a preceding short.

The short that I got to see was called Bis Gleich, also known as Till Then (in English); directed by German-born director, Benjamin Wolff; who was able to attend the screening this morning. The story is about an old man and an old woman who live across the street from each other, and regularly go out every morning on their window sill with a pillow, in order to watch all the people that pass by every day. As you may expect, the old woman does eventually meet the old man, and they share a unique and heart-warming moment together.

Spoilers Ahead! (for Bis Gleich)

What actually happens though, is that the man tries his best to be friendly each day, smiling and waving to the woman across the way. She has a man staying with her in her home, and that seems to slightly discourage the man across the way on his window-sill; but we are never told whether or not the man in the woman’s house is her son or her husband.

At one point the man doesn’t come to his sill, and so the woman becomes concerned. She decides to go to his door after noticing a younger woman go into his apartment, and we find out that the old man has had some heart trouble and is now temporarily bed-ridden. The heart-felt moment then comes when the old woman decides to do something incredibly nice and clever for the old man by giving him a way to continue to look out his window without having to leave his bed. So what does she do? She buys a wagon-load of old mirrors of varying sizes, and strings them about his bedroom. And each mirror is angled to the perfect pitch in order for him to see each of the persons that he, and she, watches every day.

The quality of this short film was quite high. It appeared to have been shot on a 4K camera, digital not film, and it had a very high-key and bright color space: very clean and pristine. The production design and shot design was unique in that the filmmakers needed to find two apartments that were right across the street from each other, and then they needed to have the proper lenses and focal-lengths with which to achieve the long-lensed shots that looked across from either side of the street and from each window’s vantage point. Getting certain shots and certain angles I’m sure came at some great difficulty. This film was also accomplished with very little dialogue, and I have recently come to appreciate stories that can be told with little to no dialogue.

Spoilers over.

Now onto the feature documentary.

Today, I went to see the 2014 documentary called Limited Partnership, directed by Thomas G. Miller. It’s about the struggles and hardships of the first legally married bi-national gay couple, Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan. The film chronicles their lives mostly from the time that they met around 1974, how they married in Boulder, CO in 1975, and then how they fought in the gay rights movement and  struggled to be issued a green-card for Anthony, since he was an Australian National living in the US on a temporary basis. For the next 25 to 30 years, the two men waited patiently, biding their time and doing what was necessary; as they waited for the day that their lives could be legally recognized by the United States government, and the day that Tony would be able to be legally documented as a US citizen.

Spoilers Ahead! (for Limited Partnership)

During the time between roughly 1980 and 2013, Anthony Sullivan (not to be confused with the television spokesman) lived under the radar of the US Immigration office, bravely standing by his partner Richard in the hopes that he would not be deported for simply being a homosexual. And thankfully, he never was deported.

What was unfortunate, however, was that during the course of filming later interviews for this documentary, Richard Adams (who was born in the Philippines and had moved with his family to the US in the late 1940s) died of lung cancer in 2012, just before the explosion of legal progress for Gay rights happened between 2013 and early 2014: including the denouncing of the Defense of Marriage Act, which was a bill that defined marriage solely as that between a man and a woman in the eyes of the law.

Throughout their lives, especially during the 1970s and mid-2000s, Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan stood as role-models, celebrities, and important voices in the Gay Rights movements. For the sake of Tony’s safety, they had to choose a certain level of anonymity and reclusion during the intervening time, but that ultimately did not stop them from continuing on with their relatively happy lives. And in the end, Richard and Tony realized that they were happier then then they had ever been before, and that even if they hadn’t won the legal battle over Gay Rights before Richard’s death, they had won for their own lives because they were never separated.

Now I don’t usually get to speak on this subject, but I feel that this moment will be as good as any to say my piece. I am in full support of any law or decision that furthers the equal treatment of homosexual individuals within this country, and all other countries. And even if I did feel differently on a personal level, this would only be the right thing to do since I am going into the Film and Television field; which is by all accounts filled with many talented people who define themselves as gay or lesbian. And I feel that anyone who does not believe that these people deserve to be treated with kindness and fairness is only doing themselves a disservice.

“Treat others as you would like to be treated.” No truer now than it ever was.

If you must hold onto your beliefs that gay relationships are wrong, then that is your business. But that does not mean that you have to force that belief onto others or to deny someone a basic necessity or service because they go against your beliefs. You may believe that the color lavender is an ugly color, but you don’t go around preaching the evils of lavender and that it should be abolished. And you may believe that certain movies are not appropriate for your kids, but that doesn’t mean that you should go out trying to boycott or remove such films from a library or rental store or theater for everyone else’s’ kids; because that’s not your business.

And to try to put an end to the old saying that “if a man marries a man, then what’s stopping a man from marrying his dog;” human beings are recognized as citizens under the law, animals (as far to my knowledge) are not citizens. Men and women are tax payers, and when you get married you receive a tax deduction, along with further deductions if you have dependents: this is not at all the same for animals, and animals do not pay their own taxes. And finally, human beings are conscious and moral; we have a sense of self, we have the ability to give and receive consent, and we have a concept of the greater world around us: animals may exhibit many things comparable to these behaviors, but they are not at all the same thing.

A man can and should be able to marry a man because we simply give married couples too many legal benefits for many people to live without; and also because in any other situation, both men would not be discriminated against. But if a man, or woman wants to marry an animal, then that is a completely new story and a completely new issue; because now a third party of a completely unrelated species has become the point of contention and interest; and therefore should be treated as such.

Simply put, I am happy for Tony Sullivan and his late partner, Richard Adams. I think what they had was a genuine love for each other, no different than the love I see between many heterosexual couples I have met and that are part of my family. And it is a shame that they had to endure what they did to get to where they were when Richard died, and where Tony is now with the most recent rulings of the Supreme Court.

I wish Mr. Sullivan all the best as he now applies for his official green-card and for the rights to his spousal benefits.

Next up, we have Steve Carrel’s turn as the dark, real-life character of John Du Pont, in Bennette Miller’s Foxcatcher.

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