Brooklyn-based filmmaker Becca Roth had never actually been to North Carolina before starting work on her award-winning documentary One: A Story of Love and Equality, which chronicles her interactions with people on both sides of a controversial anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment. Still, the state and its rocky history with gay rights had always intrigued her.
“I had a friend from college who was from Hendersonville,” says Roth, “and she always talked about the difference between being in Hendersonville, having to be completely closeted, and going 30 minutes to Asheville, where you can do whatever you want. So I was interested in doing a film to understand where people were coming from on both sides.”
“When I found out about Amendment One, it seemed like the perfect opportunity,” Roth continues. “Even though it did pass, North Carolina seemed like one of the most mixed states in terms of the issue, and that’s what I wanted to explore with the film.”
On Sunday, Roth’s film had its first public screening in the state for a crowd of about 100 at the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival at Durham’s Carolina Theatre. (If you missed it, it screens again this Thursday.)
Roth says she hadn’t been to the festival before, but was impressed by what she experienced. “There’s a real loyalty in the festival’s audience,” she says. “When I’m here, I feel the impact on everyone watching it and how it’s close to their lives. It’s one of the most responsive audiences we’ve had.”
According to Roth’s director’s statement, the film grew out of an experience in high school when she organized an LGBT prom in rural Ohio that was met with heated protests. “We called them ignorant,” she writes. “They called us sinners.” Roth says that the most meaningful part of making the film was exploring these different attitudes from an empathetic perspective.
“If you want to further the discussion, you can’t just tell people that they’re wrong—you have to meet them where they are and let them share their stories and experiences and reveal their humanity,” she says. ”That’s kind of the whole purpose of the film. It’s important for people on both sides of the community to have conversations about it, even if they’re coming from different places.”
One: A Story of Love and Equality screens at 7:20 p.m. on Thursday, Aug.21 at the Carolina Theatre as part of the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The festival runs through Aug. 24. This week, it also features a new “Retrofantastique” series of double-features of older movies that have LGBT themes or have traditionally been popular with LGBT audiences. For more information, visit the Carolina Theatre’s website.