Film dramatizes plight of gay binational couples
by Matthew S. Bajko
A film partly financed by individual donors that dramatizes the plight of gay binational couples will have a sneak peek screening as part of this year's Frameline lineup.
The movie, the first non-documentary to focus on immigration issues LGBT couples in America struggle with, will have its world premiere July 18 at Los Angeles's LGBT film festival. Called I Do , it stars Jamie-Lynn Sigler, of Sopranos fame, and Alicia Witt, who's starred in various TV shows, including Cybil and Friday Night Lights.
The movie is written by David W. Ross, who shot to fame in Britain in the 1990s as a member of the boy band Bad Boys Inc. Ross plays the lead role of Jack Edwards, a gay photographer's assistant living in New York City.
Through a tragic turn of events Ross's character finds himself helping to raise his niece. But when his work visa renewal is denied, he marries his lesbian best friend, played by Sigler, in order to remain in the country.
The story takes off from there, with several legal twists and romantic turns along the way. At times comical, others tearful, the film is an entertaining look at an all too serious situation that can tear loving couples apart.
"I really wanted to write a romantic drama rather than a romantic comedy," Ross, 38, told the Bay Area Reporter following a screening of the movie at George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch in Marin, where he has been editing the final cut.
The script derives from Ross's own life story, as a relationship he was in eight years ago came to an end when his boyfriend had to move back to England. The issue has taken on more relevance, said Ross, as many LGBT people do not fully understand that most gay binational couples still lack a legal way to citizenship for the foreign-born partner despite a handful of states adopting same-sex marriage.
"It still boggles my mind," said Ross, who had a breakout role in the 2006 Indie hit Quinceanera. "There are 1,300 federal rights you don't get on the state level. Immigration is on the federal level."
Ross's film has caught the attention of advocates pushing Congress and the Obama administration to adopt federal legislation allowing LGBT Americans to apply for citizenship for their foreign-born partners. Amos Lim, with Out4Immigration, will address the discrimination faced by same-sex binational couples prior to the special screening at Frameline Friday, June 15.
"I am hoping the movie's release will create more awareness. That is something we have been trying to raise for a couple years already," said Lim, whose been assisting Machu Latorre, the godmother of his daughter, with the development of her documentary on the subject called Entry Denied. "It is just a bigger platform, I guess, for people to discuss and understand what the issue is about."
Accepted at several LGBT film festivals, I Do has yet to be picked up for theatrical release, something Ross hopes will happen due to the spotlight it will receive at Frameline and Outfest. The movie was shot in 16 days last October in Los Angeles, with two additional days of filming exterior shots in New York City.
It may never have been made in the first place were it not for individuals donating $53,000 in response to an appeal Ross posted on the website Kickstarter. To raise the film's profile further, Ross publicly came out as gay last year and granted an interview to gay British magazine Attitude .
He was able to raise another $25,700 on the website Indiegogo. And a tweet he sent out about the movie made its way to Stuart McCowan, who works for Skywalker Sound and invited Ross and his production team to edit their movie at the Marin facility.
A former reporter for the BBC, McCowan recalled interviewing Ross during his days as an European pop music sensation. Gay himself, McCowan said the film's story resonated personally, as some friends suggested he marry a woman in order to obtain a green card in America.
"Friends said it would be easy to do, but I didn't want to cheat the system," said McCowan, adding that helping engineer the sound on I Do has been "a little bit emotional, for sure."
He remains hopeful that America's anti-gay immigration policies will be rescinded.
"It's just a matter of time where people wake up and realize it is just idiotic," said McCowan. "It doesn't make sense."
The film ultimately cost $1 million to make, and those attending the sneak peek at the Victoria Theater will see the final version. Similar to how the 1979 movie Kramer vs. Kramer changed Americans' view on divorce, Ross hopes his movie will similarly impact the debate surrounding same-sex marriage rights.
"The more people wake up the better," he said. "I just pray it is emotionally effective."
To learn more about the film, visit http://www.idothemovie.com/. It will be featured on the Pride episode of CBS5's Eye on the Bay airing at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 21.