“Limited Partnership” presents the journey of two men whose low-limelight struggle to be recognized as a married couple predates current debates by decades. Screening Thursday at Frameline38, The City’s international LGBT film festival, the documentary serves as a relevant LGBT-rights history lesson and is equally a poignant love story.
Combining interviews, footage and home movies, director Richard G. Miller follows the relationship of Richard Adams, a Filipino-American, and Tony Sullivan, an Australian, who in 1971, in their 20s, met at a Los Angeles bar and fell in love. Devoted to each other, and with Sullivan in need of a green card, they decided to marry.
They tied the knot in Boulder, Colo., where county clerk Clela Rorex, herself deserving a place in the annals, was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Their union received no federal recognition. In a letter that makes the eyes pop out, the Immigration and Naturalization Service stated that the couple didn’t establish that a “bona fide relationship can exist between two faggots.”
While the ruling spelled deportation for Sullivan, the men refused to part. They left the country together, eventually returned, and continued to fight to have their marriage validated in court.
Miller entwines their story with a decades-spanning chronicle of the steadily building LGBT-rights and marriage-equality movements. California’s Briggs initiative, the Milk and Moscone assassinations, Anita Bryant, and setbacks and victories involving Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are among the subjects covered.
Throughout, Adams and Sullivan — who, shortly before Adams’ death in 2012, were planning to bolster their legal case by marrying anew — come across as unsung civil-rights pioneers and inspiring examples of enduring love.
“Out in East Berlin: Lesbians and Gays in the GDR,” one of those little time-and-place documentaries that makes it on to the radar thanks to festivals like Frameline, looks at the experience of being gay in East Germany — the defunct land of utopian dreams crushed by Soviet-style totalitarianism and common homophobia.
Directors Jochen Hick and Andreas Strohfeldt introduce 13 LGBT former East Berliners, who recall their youth in a country that viewed homosexuality as a violation of conventional marriage ideals and treated LGBT citizens harshly.
A woman recalls how members of a group of lesbians, intending to honor LGBT victims of the Nazis, were arrested, taunted and accused of “disrespecting” the dead.
A man describes how gays were pressured into spying for the Stasi.
The filmmakers extend their lens to noncommunist Europe, noting that Western leftists, too, deemed homosexuality a “bourgeois perversion.”
The film additionally acts as a snapshot of East German life, for which some interviewees, while condemning the oppression, express an intriguing nostalgia.
IF YOU GO
When: Wednesday through Sunday
Where: Various venues
Tickets: $12-$18 most screenings
Note: “Limited Partnership” screens at 1:45 p.m. Thursday at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F.; “Out in East Berlin: Lesbians and Gays in the GDR” screens at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., S.F.