Ballot Measure 9

Director: Heather MacDonald

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


By now, everyone knows the outcome of Oregon’s 1992 ballot measure: unlike its Colorado counterpart, this proposal to deny civil rights to gay people was decisively defeated. But how? And why? Director Heather MacDonald ducks behind the headlines to lay bare the passions, strategies, and clear-eyed organizing that drove the forces, pro and con, in the days and nights leading up to that November day when the United States elected Clinton president, and the state of Oregon elected 57 percent to 43 percent to continue to confer the status of humanity upon its gay population.

MacDonald and her crew have chosen a cool, low-voltage style, examining heated issues with near-clinical precision. Central to the film’s power are the brave crusaders who risk harassment, attack, even firebombing to stand up for themselves, their gay or lesbian friends and allies, and their own beliefs. As the odds even out and the level of violence escalates, the documentary acquires the tension and suspense of a fiction film.

Ballot Measure 9 is that rare film that an audience enters sure of what’s to come only to find expectations overturned. Its local chronicle evolves into a far-ranging exposé of hate politics that crosses lines of race, religion, and sexual identity. With the recent success of California’s Proposition 187, this just might be the next training manual on how to rescue the soul of America

— B. Ruby Rich

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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