Largely focused on the controversy surrounding the state’s Proposition 8-commonly known as a ban on gay marriage, the civil rights movement for equality comes alive in this compelling documentary.
More a tribute to the cause than a strictly impartial documentary, the film spends it time within the LGBTQ community almost exclusively, with activist newlyweds Robin Tyler and Diane Olson acting as the de facto narrative voice.
Tyler and Olson were part of the catalyst that brought the issue of gay marriage before the California State Supreme Court, who ruled in favor of equal marriage rights, only to have their ruling challenged by Prop 8.
The balloted proposition represents the first time in U.S. history that a state changed its constitution to actually rescind minority rights.
Most of this story is still fresh in the minds of the queer community, and hopefully the tremendous and intense media coverage and national profile of this issue will assure a large audience for ANNUL Victory.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome is featured as a civil rights hero. His speech with his infamous “Ready or not” excerpt is presented here in more detail and in proper context.
It is very moving and historic, as is much of this finely crafted chronicle of one of the great civil rights struggles of our age.
At times perhaps a little too in love with its own story, we see scene after scene of marchers in the streets protesting for their rights.
It is energizing, inspiring and at times heartbreaking.
Witnessing a marcher in Silverlake bawl like a baby over the beauty and synergy of the massive crowd draws chills.
Director Cheryl Riley’s camera is everywhere, with precious moments otherwise lost to history captured here for all time.
Oh, yes, there are celebs. After all, this is California.
Activists like Cleve Jones, the aforementioned Tyler and Olson, Evan Wolfson, Judy Shepard, Jane Lynch, George Takei and and Brad Altman (“May equality live long and prosper”) and a host more share the spotlight with established gay icons like Liza Minelli, Margaret Cho, Eric McCormack, Cyndi Lauper, Pink, Loni Anderson, Reichen Lehmkul, Alec Mapa, Sigourney Weaver, Dana Delaney, Jay Leno, Bruce Villanch and even Kelly Osbourne (“most of my friends are gay!”).
This is entertainment activism, folks.
If there are villains in this story, they are sad villains.
They include the Mormon Church, donating more than twenty million dollars to pass Prop 8, (“Tax The Mormon Church” is a popular protest march rant); the Catholic Church, the Baptist churches, elements of the black community, sadly seemingly including our President.
LAPD comes across as a bully, beating bleeding protesters with gusto. One hopes this footage captured mostly isolated incidences. Otherwise, one hears nothing of recrimination in this regard.
The march in downtown Los Angeles, of which this writer was proud to be a participant, overwhelms the downtown area, ending up in that iconic moment on the overpass of the 110 freeway, where commuting cars honk in support as activists wave banners from the railings above; a moment that for me will never be forgotten.
The Beverly Hills courthouse steps marriage of Tyler and Olson is covered in detail, SWAT team and attorney Gloria Allred included.
Of particular humor is Robin’s relating of how she had to practically shoehorn Allred from her side (and the cameras) to make room for her brother, the LGBT community’s very own Reverend Sharpton.
All in all, the LGBTQ community comes across as very sympathetic in the documentary, and all the separation, pain, persecution and humiliation projected against this community seems to melt, as related by Robin Tyler in a poignant telling of denial of companion rights to a lesbian couple and all those who have been denied in the past and today.
Joyous marchers surface over and over again, accompanied by a dynamite film score as eclectic as the crowds, from wailing disco divas to Modest Mouse.
Perhaps the most powerful aspect to ANNUL Victory is observing the interplay and cooperation between the older generation and many, many younger people fighting for their rights.