Arts

InFocus

Cambridge documentarian films gay couple’s journey to parenthood

Sandro (left) and Erik (right), holding their daughters Eleonora (left) and Rachel Maria, with surrogate Rachel and her husband, Tony.

Sandro (left) and Erik (right), holding their daughters Eleonora (left) and Rachel Maria, with surrogate Rachel and her husband, Tony.

For gay couples, like most people, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a new member of the family in a baby carriage.

The 2015 Supreme Court ruling has made the first two steps easier and more culturally accepted. The third, though, remains the tricky part.

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In 2011, Cambridge documentarian Amy Geller read an article about Rachel, a wife and mother of three who agreed to be a surrogate mother for her gay friend Erik and his husband, Sandro. Not once, but twice.

Geller knew there was a movie there. She contacted another local filmmaker, her friend Allie Humenuk, and the two agreed to collaborate. Five years later, “The Guys Next Door” will have its New England premiere at the Independent Film Festival Boston on May 1 (2:15 p.m., Somerville Theatre) with Geller and Humenuk in attendance to field questions before and after the screening.

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The two directors recently talked about their new film during a conference call — Humenuk from her home in Arlington, Geller from a West Roxbury cemetery that will be featured in a new movie she’s producing.

Q. So you read an article and then, next thing you knew, you were spending five years with this family?

Amy Geller: I got in touch with Rachel and asked her this crazy question whether a friend and I could film you and we don’t know what it’s going to be but your story is really moving and what do you think? She said, “Let me ask Erik and Sandro and my husband Tony. Maybe it will be fun.” So I contacted my friend Allie.

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Allie Humenuk: When Amy called me initially I thought she was doing a film about surrogacy in general. I said I didn’t want to do that film, but I’d love to visit the extended family with you and help out. The films I love making are character-driven stories from which bigger issues germinate. If you start with a huge topic, it’s harder to do that. And when we met everybody we knew we had great characters. Where it was going, though, we had no idea.

Q. If you didn’t know where you were going, how did you know when to stop?

AH: We could have kept filming. But around the time of the Supreme Court decision we decided the timing was right. We stopped filming and started to edit.

AG: Our dream at least initially was to think of it like a “7 Up” series, where we checked back in with the characters. But we realized how timely this issue was and how important it was to get out this portrait of a gay family that is both traditional and non-traditional at the same time. Still, our dream is to follow up on these families over time and track what happens. That’s going to take a lot more funds. And depends on the reception of this film. We’ll see.”

Peter Keough can be reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.
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