Wednesday, January 13, 2010

March on Sundance?

Posted By on January 13, 2010, 8:56 PM

Reed Cowan's documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition could shape up to be one of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival's more controversial entries -- if activists have anything to say about it.

A Facebook post by Jacob Whipple provides the details on demonstrations -- called "marches" -- being held at theaters screening the film during the festival -- the number of which has now been limited to a modest six. The demonstrations are intended to draw public attention to the film.

Not that 8:TMP appears to need much promotion. --- The film, which examines the LDS Church's financial involvement in promoting California's anti-marriage Proposition 8, has been generating interest for quite some time. Tickets sold out pretty much immediately, and expected protests by the usual antigay suspects won't hurt publicity, either. For those of us who fervently support gay equality, 8:TMP is more than just another indie flick, and its long-awaited screening here in Utah is a significant event. So the need for an activist presence at the screenings seems pretty clear-cut.

Still, I'm wondering if "marches" is really the best term for these demonstrations.

OK, it's a pet peeve with me -- every Sunday afternoon after the Pride Festival, somebody inevitably asks, "What did you think of the march?" It's a parade, sweetie! Yes, both involve large crowds moving along a predetermined route. But parades are colorful and celebratory; marches are grim and purposeful.

If you ever have any trouble telling the difference, just look at the cops: If the police are looking particularly attractive that day, with mustaches trimmed and boots mirror-polished, while they're directing traffic and being generally helpful, it's a parade. If they're wearing dreary old riot gear, deploying tear gas and carting you off in a van, it's a march.

I guess I've always thought "march" should be reserved for a very specific, targeted kind of civil-action event. The post-Prop 8 marches near Temple Square certainly merit the term -- but, since they undoubtedly are part of the documentary, imitating them in a series of demonstrations targeting participating theaters could backfire -- overstimulated and exhausted entertainment reporters might misinterpret it as some kind of promotional gimmick.

Another feature of marches is that they move from Point A to Point B. Or at least they try to. But, since these are being held at movie theaters, there's really not going to be a lot of space -- particularly at the overcrowded Park City venues. There may be gathering, chanting, sign-waving, speechifying, candlelight vigil-ing and all manner of other compact expressions of free speech -- but none of them, I think, can be classified as "marches".

Don't get me wrong -- I hope the demonstrations are a great success, and that everybody gets a better idea of what 8:TMP (and, hopefully, the gay-rights movement itself) are all about.

My beef is merely about semantics. Some might dismiss it as a minor quibble, but consider that when you're dealing with media -- that is, communications -- it's important to send a clear message. That means choosing your terminology to be as precise and clear as possible.

And that's all I'm sayin'.

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