April 17, 2011

Bill Nemitz: Documentary clips show sad face of Yes on 1

Call it winner's remorse.

click image to enlarge

Marc Mutty, shown on Election Day 2009, says he has regrets about how the fight to repeal Maine’s same-sex marriage law was won. “I would never do this again ... I personally could not do it,” he said.

2009 Press Herald file

FOR MORE

View a trailer for "Question 1": www.flywall.com/documentaries/question-1/

Visit the movie's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Question-One-The-Movie/182817908421779

 

Seventeen months after he led the charge to repeal Maine's same-sex marriage law, Marc Mutty is anything but a happy man.

In fact, a soon-to-be-released documentary shows that even back in the fall of 2009, the chairman of the Yes on 1 campaign found himself tethered to an increasingly heavy conscience.

Let's go to the tape:

"We use a lot of hyperbole and I think that's always dangerous," says Mutty during a Yes on 1 strategy session, at the time on leave from his job as public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine.

"You know, we say things like 'Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!' " he continues. "Well, that's not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn't, you know?"

"No," interjects a woman off-camera. "We don't say that."

"Let's look back at our ads and see what we say," Mutty persists. "And I think we use hyperbole to the point where, you know, it's like 'Geez!' "

The documentary, co-directed by New York City filmmakers Joe Fox and James Nubile, is a story in itself.

Back in early 2009, Fox and Nubile approached both sides in the looming same-sex marriage battle seeking permission for their film company (aptly named Fly on the Wall Productions) to document the referendum campaign from the inside out.

Remarkably, both camps said yes -- on the condition that none of the footage be shown until after the election.

Hence the filmmakers spent months in Maine interviewing dozens of people on camera (myself included) about what the referendum meant to them personally and to the state as a whole.

"I think we went beyond the obvious and were able to capture the humanity of all sides involved," Fox said in a telephone interview last week. "I think we have something here."

"Question 1," now in post-production, is tentatively scheduled for release late this summer or fall. But if a recently released trailer is any indication, Fox has good reason to be optimistic.

The six-minute excerpt, along with several other clips posted on the movie's Facebook page, offers front-row views of players on both sides of the hard-fought contest -- including a close-up of Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for No on 1/Protect Maine Equality, conceding with tears in his eyes that "at the end of the day, these people deserve to get married -- and I couldn't get it done for them."

But it is Mutty, sitting atop a campaign almost identical to the 2008 effort that beat back same-sex marriage in California, whose on-camera disclosures could well steal the show.

"This has been a (double expletive). This has been awful. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it," a clearly exhausted Mutty says midway through the trailer.

At another point, he laments, "I fear I'll be remembered for the work I did on this campaign."

He even goes so far as to plead "for forgiveness for the ways in which I might have betrayed my own self in this endeavor."

Then there's the strategizing.

"All we have to do is create doubt," Mutty says, during that strategy session. "You don't have to convince people that you're right."

And how, pray tell, do you do that?

"I know we need to do what we have to do -- not only slam people over the head with a two-by-four, but a two-by-four with nails sticking out of it," he says. "And it's nuts ... unfortunately, I think it's a lousy approach. But it's the only thing we've got -- it's the only way. That's the way campaigns work."

(Continued on page 2)

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