The Montclair native spoke to us about her life growing up in Montclair, coming out as a lesbian and her inspiration to film this documentary, which takes a look at what motivates people to vote against gay marriage.
Baristanet: Tell us about your upbringing and when you came out to your parents.
Roth: I went to Montclair Public Schools my whole life (Nishuane, Hillside, Glenfield, and MHS). I graduated from Kenyon College in 2010, and now I live in Brooklyn. I came out when I was about 20. My family has always been very open minded and accepting, but I think it was a bit of an adjustment when I came out because it was unexpected. But after a few months, everything was fine, and now they’re unbelievably supportive.
B: What was the inspiration for One: A Story of Love and Equality?
R: When I was a senior at Kenyon College, I organized a gay prom for the high school kids in the neighboring rural Ohio town. When we got to the venue, I was shocked to find that the front doors were blocked by people yelling and holding picket signs that had Bible verses on them. I grew up in Montclair at a very liberal school, and I had never encountered anything like that firsthand. The people from my school started yelling back at the protesters, and soon everyone was just loudly preaching their beliefs to an unreceptive, defensive person on the other side.
I took a step back and thought about what each side was actually trying to accomplish. Relating to where the people from my school were coming from, I knew that they were hurt by these protestors, and they genuinely wanted them to understand their reasoning and experiences. But I realized, standing there, witnessing the back and forth screaming, that this was not the way to do it. And then I realized that as much as I disagree with the protestors and as much as their words hurt, they must have some motivation for getting in their car on a Friday night and standing in front of a school dance holding homemade signs. In that moment, I decided I wanted to make a documentary that sought to understand and engage people on both sides.
B: Why North Carolina?
R: I was interested in North Carolina because a friend of mine grew up in a very conservative rural town outside a very liberal city in North Carolina, and she lived sort of a double life, in the closet in her hometown, and out and proud in the city. I found out that North Carolina in general was very politically divided from town to town, so I thought that it would be a great location to make this film. It did feel sort of random and un-urgent to just go to North Carolina and ask strangers how they felt about gay people, so I put the project on the shelf for a little while, but it was always in the back of my mind. Then in November of 2011, I got an email about a proposed gay marriage ban in North Carolina, Amendment One, and I felt like this was a sign that my film needed to be made. So I went down and made it.
I want people to see this film and look at this issue differently. To realize that everyone is coming from somewhere, and that in order to actually impact people, we have to meet them where they are. I hope people see this film and are encouraged to have productive conversations with people who disagree with them on this issue.
B: How did your film get chosen to be a part of MFF 2014 and how does it feel to have it play in your hometown?
R: I submitted my film to the Montclair Film Festival partially because it’s my hometown, but also because I know that it’s a really great film festival! I was so happy when I found out that my film was chosen, and I was unbelievably thrilled when I found out that my film would be screening at the Bellevue Theatre. I grew up just a few blocks from the Bellevue, and it was the place where I’d go to see movies as a kid. Even now when I think “movie theater,” that’s the image that pops up. So to have my film screen there is surreal and amazing.
See One: A Story of Love and Equality Bellevue Theater on Tuesday, April 29 at 9 pm. Tickets are available on Montclair Film Festival’s website here.