Lesbian filmmaker Laura McFerrin brings the National Equality March to the big screen

Finding a good LGBT protest march these days isn’t as easy as it used to be.

In some ways, that’s good, because the Internet has given us tons of outlets for getting our message across. In other ways, though, it makes me a little sad because nothing matches the feeling you get from marching with hundreds of other LGBT people with one goal in view: equality.

Dallas-based lesbian activist Laura McFerrin captures a bit of that feeling on film with her documentary, March On, which premieres at the Austin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in September.

March On documents the 2009 National Equality March in Washington, DC through the eyes of five families who marched among the 250,000 participants. NEM organizers contacted McFerrin to record the event on film, but she soon realized that the march itself was just part of the story.

“People were talking about their groups, their hopes and their sense of urgency to get to DC,” McFerrin writes on her website, “and it really knocked me out that the real story is WHY people would stop their busy lives and go to Washington!”

She sent Flip cameras to a diverse set of people going to the march in order to capture their stories from the start. “We sent a list of questions and just let it be, let them begin telling their thinking, motives, plans. The hope was to have a record of their entire journey, from getting out the suitcase, driving to the airport or bus, to finding their lodging. But most of all it was about why they felt they had to go, take off from work, leave home and March On Congress.”

The documentary combines footage from NEM and the 1987 March on Washington, along with highlights of the speakers and celebrities at the March. Lt. Dan Choi, Lady Gaga, Cleve Jones, Cynthia Nixon, Staceyann Chin and Michelle Clunie all appear in March On.

Here’s the extended trailer.

For some marchers, the National Equality March was their first. But for people like Zoe Nicholson, the woman speaking at the end of the trailer, it was simply the next step in a life of activism. And the emotion you see as Nicholson speaks gives you just an inkling of what you’ll see in March On.

McFerrin hopes that the documentary will inspire people today so that it will be something of a curiosity to future generations. “My hope is that people will watch this film and they will be inspired to become an activist. My hope is that my grandchildren will watch this movie in 30 years and shake their heads and say, ‘I can’t believe you had to march so you can get married.’”

I think we all share that hope.

March On premiers Sunday, Sept. 12 at noon at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. Join me in wishing McFerrin and her crew the best and let us know if you’ll see the film when it comes to your local film fest.

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