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A 'Mission' Accomplished

A 'Mission' AccomplishedWith help from his brother and an accomplished filmmaker, Tufts senior Matt Pohl captured the historic commencement of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts to film.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.07.05] On May 17, 2004, gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts. Compelled to capture the historic event, Tufts senior Matt Pohl and his brother traveled to Cambridge, Mass., camera in hand, to watch the first licenses be issued at midnight. Little did they know that their attempt to record history would evolve into the documentary "Mission to Matrimony," which is gathering wide acclaim and poised for its national debut.

"People wax nostalgic about the nuclear family, but culture has radically changed," Pohl, who graduated in May with a degree in political science, told the Marblehead Reporter. "We're going to keep evolving."

The pair shot more than 35 hours of footage, distilled into an 82-minute film. After two March screenings – one at Tufts and one at Brown University, where Pohl's brother Noah attends school – the documentary is currently undergoing a final round of tweaks before the ambitious filmmaking crew submits it to prestigious festivals like Sundance and Telluride. They even believe it could qualify for Oscar contention.

"We want this film to succeed on an international scale, and we believe it has such potential," Pohl said in an interview with E-News.

This year, on May 17, the filmmaking crew sent mini-wedding cakes stuffed with a copy of the film to potential distributors nationwide.

Pohl, who balanced campus activities and schoolwork with the logistical legwork involved in producing a documentary, has deferred admission into the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University in order to help promote the film.

When the brothers arrived in Cambridge last May, the scene was striking.

"We saw human drama beyond what we could have imagined," Pohl recalled to the Reporter. "Every human emotion - happiness, tears, joy, people protesting and very upset."

After shooting footage there and conducting some follow-up interviews, the inexperienced young filmmakers –Pohl's brother Noah had made some short films in high school –temporarily stalled. Then the brothers collaborated with award-winning documentarian Jerri Sher, whom Pohl knew through a friend. With her help, they have connected with award-winning producers and editors who are helping produce the final version of the film.

Pohl also got help from Tufts, in the form of mentoring of Howard Woolf, director of the advanced filmmaking program at Tufts and associate director of the Ex College, and a scholarship from the University College for Citizenship and Public Service.

Pohl and his brother interviewed many key figures in the issue, including Mary Bonuato, lead counsel in the Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health case that brought about the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling that legalized same-sex marriage; Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank; Cheryl Jacques, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign and former Mass. state senator; and Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans and one-time candidate for Mass. lieutenant governor. The film also chronicles the struggles of two people trying to obtain survivor benefits after their partners died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In addition, "Mission to Matrimony" focuses on two gay couples who each married last year, highlighting the mundane family activities in their everyday lives.

"It's meant to allow viewers to relate [to the issue]," Pohl explained to the Reporter.

"When we first met Matt and Noah, we just thought it would be a simple student type of film," Susan Jacobs, a member of one of the families featured in the documentary, told the Reporter. "I didn't think it would be anything near the quality or the depth of what it is."

Pohl, who is gay, says the furor surrounding gay marriage doesn't make sense.

"Children need love, support and guidance," he told the Reporter. "It's not a question of gender."

Pohl hopes that the documentary, while it stands clearly on one side of the issue, will encourage viewers to come to their own educated conclusions.

"The voices in 'Mission to Matrimony' –from either side – represent an eloquent and clear dichotomy of the issue that I think our national debate currently lacks," he told E-News.

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