When I received an invitation to “Some Prefer Cake” the lesbian film festival in Bologna, Italy, of course I said “Si si si!” Tagliatelle, tortellini en brodo, miles of archway-covered streets and a sea of Italian lesbians. I cleared my calendar immediately.
I’m happy to report that I was able to enjoy all those delights last week. But the most important thing that happened on this trip is that, once again, I saw GroundSpark’s mission come alive. We “create visionary films and dynamic educational campaigns that move individuals and communities to take action for a more just world.” This time, the “world” was Italy.
The festival had programmed a selective retrospective of the films I have directed. Watching them again through Italian lesbian eyes provided a remarkable opportunity to take in how much social change these films have helped create and how much more work there is to be done all over the world.
When the lights went up after Choosing Children, the documentary Kim Klausner and I made 28 years ago, the audience was pensive and somewhat stunned. They couldn’t believe the courage of the women in the film who had found ways to have children as out lesbians. I learned that lesbians are not yet opting to become parents in Italy. “We don’t even talk about it,” one woman explained. “It’s just impossible with the way that the Catholic Church controls everything.” “I know one couple that wanted to have children,” another offered. “But they had to move to Spain. You can’t do it here.”
In the discussion of this film and then later of It’s STILL Elementary (made with Johnny Symons), I had an opportunity to share GroundSpark’s perspective on the importance of fighting the taboo and stigma the LGBT community historically has faced when it comes to anything connected to children.
We will never have full civil rights—in the United States, or anywhere in the world—as long as a perception remains that LGBT people should be kept away from children. That belief is the basis for so much of the animosity, and the rationalization for why our relationships are less important, less deserving of full legal rights, than heterosexual ones are.
When the festivalgoers watched One Wedding and a Revolution (made with Kate Stilley Steiner) they were equally transfixed. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s courage in deciding to grant marriage licenses to same sex couples was unbelievable to them. “And he’s Catholic!” one woman exclaimed.
At the end of the last screening, a woman stood up and said, “Thank you so much for coming here to be with us. You have shown us that we must stop just talking to ourselves. We must have the courage to interact with the rest of the society and talk about children and marriage, that those are key to a new future.”
Marta, one of the festival producers, was effusive. “You got them talking to each other, about things we never discuss. I see these same women at many events, but we never have a conversation like that.”
She started waving goodbye as women began heading back home, not just to their apartments in Bologna, but back to Sardinia, Milan, and other regions of the country. I could see the ripple effects of the screenings go with them into the night.
I went outside and met with a journalist who was covering my visit. “So, you are an activist, not just a filmmaker?” I smiled, thinking of everyone back home who has made this work possible and whom I know stands with me. “Si – that’s right.”