The relationship among Heather Tobin’s films is the presence of leading queers into a direction of awareness, change and total understanding. Director, producer, editor and writer, Tobin seeks to create lead queer roles onscreen. To Each Her Own, a 2008 love-drama title named after her company, To Each Her Own Films, is a coming out story about a girl named Jess (Hannah Hogan) who is no longer turned on by her husband Trevor (Shaughnessy Redden), but is still in agreement to have a baby. Conversely, Casey (Dre Carrington) is the life of the lesbian party scene and typically brings home different girls for casual hookups. Jess and Casey meet while Casey is working a job at Jess’s apartment complex and the two become inseparable—causing Jess to be dishonest to Casey, Trevor and especially herself.
Jess and Casey become closer, spending generous time out in public where Jess isn’t completely comfortable in her shoes as a lez in love, though Casey seems to bring out the best in her regardless—a contrast to her behavior at home with Trevor, and especially during visits to her parents’ house, who are eagerly awaiting news of an addition to the family. Jess seems annoyed by the constant subject matter—expressing her apathy over baby bedroom wall colors, gesturing annoyance when Trevor explains she won’t have much time to work on the website she’s building when the baby arrives.
To Each Her Own narrows in on the realities of internalized homophobia—where its Jess who must come to terms with her sexuality, her double-sided life, and her fears of losing the people who matter most in her life. Where in the process of coming out, myriad emotions make Jess a ball of confusion—putting her in the center of a storm where she is balancing privacy, shame, courage and self-acceptance. When everything becomes unraveled, she knows exactly what she must do for the sake of her own happiness, but it won’t be easy.
In Tobin’s 2005 documentary I Do, she explores the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada, made official on February 1, 2005. We are introduced to Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, who in 2001 became the first same-sex couple to ever be legally married in Canada. They paint a stark visual of what was supposed to be a day filled with love, support and celebration. Instead, the Reverend was dressed in a bulletproof vest and there were countless death threats, armed officials, and hoards of people outside in protest. Still, they offer a sense of renewal, validation, and longevity in spite of the many hoops of fire they had to climb through in order to have their marriage legally recognized once and for all.
Various queer Canadians discuss with their spouses and friends their views on the institution of marriage—whether or not its something they can wholly agree with as a result of its original inception as a patriarchal, economic function. Many ultimately decide that the same choices and rights of married heterosexual couples should be given to same-sex couples, furthering the concept of an institution totally separate from the church that bestows equal rights upon all sorts of couples—regardless of gender, religion and status. Canadian influencers like Rev. Dr. Cheri Dinova, lawyer Douglas Elliott, and Rev. Dr. Brent Hawks additionally discuss aspects of the Bible, religion, the church, the laws, and the ways in which their own careers and lives were threatened in the midst of one uphill climb to get federal law on the right side.
Since Tobin began filming I Do? before a federal law passed, this documentary truly archives a piece or history for not only the Canadian population, but also a broader world population that aims to take a direct look at the process of a culture undergoing civil changes. Questions are created throughout the film—many answered, and many left best for conversation outside of the film within our own relationships, homes and communities—questions I found myself asking with my partner as the credits rolled. As a queer person, where do you fall on the marriage equality spectrum?
Heather Tobin resides in Canada where she has been running her film company since 2004. I Do? won the award for Best Gay Film at the New York International Film and Video Festival in 2005. To Each Her Own won for Best First Feature at the Toronto Inside Out Gay and Lesbian Festival, and Best Lesbian Drama at the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, among several other accolades. Tobin is currently running her highly anticipated 2012 film Route of Acceptance in the LGBTQ film festival circuit. It hasn’t officially released yet, but we expect much more to come from this Canadian filmmaker with a message.
To Each Her Own and I Do? are now available on DVD.