Midway through the Oct. 9 City Club of Idaho Falls debate between Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff, Otter wouldn't budge in his cowboy boots from his long-standing rhetoric about it being his "duty" to defend Idaho's ban on same-sex unions. The City Club of Boise had gathered at the Owyhee to view the debate, via closed-circuit broadcast. As Otter continued to argue against gay marriage, an elderly man at the Boise gathering looked at his wife and started shaking his head. Minutes later, as Otter was saying he was still anxious to take his argument to the U.S. Supreme Court, the man's head began shaking more deliberately. When the governor said that Idaho was being unfairly tagged as being anti-gay, the man finally leaned forward and in a loud whisper said, "That is total bullshit. You can print that."
Boy, is there a movie for that guy and anyone else who is passionate about what has become one of the most important debates in modern Idaho history.
Pride—based on the true story of a 1980s alliance between British coal miners and LGBT activists—spins you around to a soundtrack of Wham and Pet Shop Boys and pinches you in the arse—all while delivering an important history lesson on what unites us rather than divides us. Cut from the same cinematic cloth as The Full Monty and Billy Elliot, Pride was this year's surprise hit to emerge from the Toronto International Film Festival. Its Friday, Oct. 17, debut in Boise, at the height of Idaho's history-making debate on LGBT rights, couldn't be more perfect.
Margaret Thatcher's austere government stared down English and Welsh coal mining unions in 1984, with the Iron Lady crippling scores of mining communities by refusing to negotiate fair-wage demands from the unions. That's when a small band of gay Londoners, also all too familiar with Thatcher's conservative chokehold, decided to align themselves with the older-than-dirt miners.
"There was a time, under the Thatcher administration, when I used to apologize for my country's behavior," Bill Nighy, one of the film's stars, told Boise Weekly in a post screening interview in Toronto. In Pride, the 65-year-old Nighy portrays a shy, reserved labor leader in one of his most subtle, touching performances. It was still early in Nighy's acting career when Thatcherism gripped his homeland.
"I recall people, in same-sex relationships, going to prison for public displays of affections," he said. "It's bizarre to think of that, but it was only 30 years ago. It's still a bit overwhelming to watch someone say 'I love you' in a public place in today's Britain."
Pride adeptly chronicles the tale of a group called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, and how they raised thousands of British pounds for rural towns throughout the English and Welsh countryside whose miners were on the picket lines for more than a year. The film takes us from tiny Welsh towns to the underground clubs of 1980s London, with musical blasts-from-the-past such as Culture Club, Grace Jones, Tears for Fears and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Pride has an abundance of moments that are a lot of fun, but the film never strays far from a foundation of evenhandedness, respect and tolerance. One can only hope Idaho's governor would buy a ticket for a chance to see what that might look like.