Review of THE GUYS NEXT DOOR, a feature-length documentary about a real Modern Family at the Sarasota Film Festival #MySFF #Sarasota

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By: Marikje
This mostly narrated documentary of The Guys Next Door, takes place over a four (4) year period from Fall 2011 to Winter 2015.  It is a story with a happy continuum—which in itself needs to be questioned by the viewer.
The surrogate, Rachel and her husband, Tony, are all on board with her being a surrogate for the second time to the same gay married couple, Sandro and Erik.  Not so for the surrogate extended family.  In this instance, the surrogate has known one of the gay men for over 20 years, since college.
This story is a feel good documentary which shows the surrogate actually being very unattached and matter of fact toward the child that she has carried in the past and is presently carrying, per her own words.   The two couples are together for the birth of both of the surrogate children and even celebrate New Years together a number of times.  All very civilized.
Yet there are questions begging to be asked.  What happens when after the birth there are legal entanglements from the surrogate mother who will not or can not follow the legal requirements laid and will not stay out of the child’s life or even that of letting the child go after birth to the arranged adoptive family.  What happens, as can be the case, when the surrogate forms an attachment to the growing child within her and will not keep her end of the bargain.  This has happened more often than is publicized and not the pretty picture that this feel good documentary implies will happen.
Another question that this documentary does not address is the one of adoption rather than surrogacy.  In this case Sandro and Erik both are heard saying that it does not matter which one of the two is the real father—so if that be the case, then why bring another child into this world rather than adopting one of the many that are already born and in foster care?
As happy and wonderful as this documentary shows that surrogacy can be and has been for this gay couple, it is felt that it paints an unrealistic picture of what really can and does happen in many surrogacy situations, especially the possible later consequences if and when divorce among a gay couple arises, and the emotional difficulty that may come of children raised in a gay family.  A feel good documentary, which hopefully will give some hope to other gay couples, but not portraying the very real and possible pitfalls of this type of family formation.
Documentary about a real Modern Family to world premiere at Sarasota Film Festival
BOSTON, MA (April 1, 2016) –  THE GUYS NEXT DOOR, a feature-length documentary about a real Modern Family, is an official selection of the Sarasota Film Festival and will have it’s world premiere on April 2 and 4. “We are thrilled and honored to launch our film at a festival that is committed to showcasing work by women directors and has a long history of screening important LGBT movies,” said co-director Allie Humenuk.
Award-winning documentary filmmakers, Amy Geller and Allie Humenuk spent over three years filming this intimate portrait of a gay couple with two daughters birthed by their close friend Rachel. Rachel and her husband Tony already have three biological children of their own.  According to Geller: “In 2011, I read this extraordinary article about Rachel and her offer to have a baby for her friends Erik and Sandro. What would compel a woman in her 40s to do this? I immediately contacted my filmmaker friend Allie, and we arranged to meet Rachel’s family and Erik’s family. We brought a camera along and from the first moment we started to shoot, we fell in love with these people.”
THE GUYS NEXT DOOR offers a contemporary alternative to the 1950’s traditional ideas of what constitute the nuclear American family. It is a timely film that both embraces and transcends gay rights and gay families. In the words of esteemed documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee (Sherman’s March), “with nuance, verve and humor, this film explores the humanity that connects us all.”
In Florida, the issues raised in the film are particularly relevant. As the state grapples with the ramifications of the US Supreme Court’s June 2015 ruling legalizing same sex marriage nationwide, married lesbian couples who choose to have children are not granted the same rights as heterosexual couples.  While most other states have changed their policies, the sunshine state only recognizes the parent who carried the child on the birth certificate. Currently, two bills in the Florida Legislature to amend the law are pending.
Sat, April 2, 2016, 5:45 PM, Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20 Sarasota
Cast and filmmakers will be present.
Mon, April 4, 2016, 9:15 PM, Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20 Sarasota
Filmmakers will be present.
A local connection: Sarasota resident Clare Segall, mother of surrogate Rachel Segall, is also featured in the film. For more than a decade, Clare has served on the board of Planned Parenthood, volunteers for Dance Next Generation, a program for at risk children organized by the Sarasota Ballet, and was honored as a 2016 “Women in Power” by the National Council of Jewish Women. She and her husband Rich moved to the area over 15 years ago.
The film has been funded by the LEF Moving Image Fund,  Poss Family Foundation, The David E. Retik Christopher D. Mello Foundation and by over 470 Kickstarter backers. The project is also supported by the IFP and the Center for Independent Documentary, the film’s non-profit fiscal sponsor.
Amy Geller has been producer and line producer on numerous commercials, shorts and documentaries, including the PBS/BBC broadcast docudrama “Murder at Harvard.” She also produced the Sundance Institute-supported narrative “Stay Until Tomorrow”, “The War That Made America,” a four-hour PBS mini-series broadcast in 2006, and “Love and Other Anxieties”, a personal documentary directed by funder-turned-filmmaker Lyda Kuth. Geller’s most ambitious production to date, the feature documentary “For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism,” has screened at over 80 film festivals, theaters, and universities in the US and abroad. It was broadcast internationally in Spain, France, Israel, and Japan and nationally on the Documentary Channel and WGBH-Boston. She has taught classes at Boston University and Emerson College. Most recently, Geller served as the Artistic Director of the Boston Jewish Film Festival. THE GUYS NEXT DOOR is her feature-length directorial debut.
Allie Humenuk is an award-winning filmmaker and Emmy nominated cinematographer whose films have been broadcast nationally and internationally and screened at film festivals, museums and schools. Her feature documentary, “Shadow of the House,” about the photographer Abelardo Morell was heralded as “one of the best films ever made on a artist and the artistic process” by Bo Smith, former curator of the film program at the MFA Boston. She was nominated for an Emmy for her camera work on the PBS series “Design Squad.”For over 15 years Allie was the Executive Producer at Vida Health Communications where she created media about public health issues. She has taught film and video production at Harvard University and the Massachusetts College of Art. Currently, she freelances as a Director, Cinematographer and Editor. THE GUYS NEXT DOOR is her second feature film.
Sandro grew up Catholic on the remote island of Sardinia in Italy. Fearful of being rejected, Sandro never came out to his mother, who died just weeks before he met Erik in New York. Now a father, Sandro experiences a profound parental shift and begins to reevaluate his relationship with his mother.
Erik, like Sandro, has a complicated relationship with his mother Ellie. Her homophobic upbringing made her fear her son’s apparent homosexuality. She adored Erik but discouraged any perceived feminine behavior when he was a child. It was difficult for Erik to “come out,” in part because he internalized his mother’s homophobia. He does not want to pass this onto his children.
Erik and Sandro live in Maine with their two daughters – Rachel Maria and Eleonora.
Rachel and Tony, a traditional married couple, live in the Boston suburbs with their three teenage children. But there’s nothing traditional about Rachel’s decision, at 41, to become a surrogate for Erik, her friend from college, and his husband Sandro. Not once, but twice within 2 years.
By helping her gay friends to have daughters, Rachel makes the deeply personal political. With the support of Tony and their children, she affirms gay rights and same-sex parenting.
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