Hypothetical situation: someone you love deeply, whether it be a Partner, Grandparent, Sibling, Best Friend or even a Pet for that matter, unexpectedly passes on. Imagine being barred from being by their side in their final hour or even worse, you are denied the opportunity to mourn their death – forbidden from attending their their Wake, their Funeral, their Burial. What happens when the Law, which is supposed to protect you, also is part of the reason why the System has failed you?
Such is the case with Shane Bitney Crone, whom after six loving years together with his same-sex Partner Tom Bridegroom, cruelly was left ostracized without the legal protection of Marriage after the latter died in a tragic accident in 2011; he was only 29. This enabled members of Bridegroom‘s Family, who disapproved vehemently of their relationship, to prevent Crone from attending his Lover’s Funeral or be a part of their healing process amidst the misfortune. Crone‘s Story, originally a Short Film on Youtube titled It Could Happen to You, after two years of development now is a feature-length Documentary titled aptly, Bridegroom. The irony of course, being that the Deceased’s Family and the Legal System had denied him the right to fulfil the destiny of his own namesake with the Man he loved.
Crone takes a moment amidst his hectic promotional schedule for the deeply-affecting Documentary to call me from Los Angeles, where the Film would premiere later that night. “You sound really echoey and far away”, he comments as some technical glitches occur while we set-up the Conference Call. “I don’t want people to think I’m weird or anything”, he says thoughtfully, hoping to make the best of our ten minutes.
From humble beginnings online, the 27-year-old Los Angeles Native now finally is seeing the rewards of his pure passion, persistence and determination. Bridegroom, after winning emphatic accolades this year at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and the Inside Out Festival in Toronto, now will be seen and heard on a wide scale with Oprah Winfrey‘s OWN and Netflix both giving it their vote of confidence. Make no mistake though, the Film isn’t simply a tragic Tale about two Gay Men – or as Crone‘s Grandmother would call it Romeo & Romeo. It is a Portrait of Injustice and a look at just how deeply-institutionalized Homophobia is in a Country which at once has embraced the likes of Will & Grace, Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, Anderson Cooper and Rosie O’Donnell.
I ask Crone about his greatest hope for Bridegroom and he says, “The main goal is to open people’s minds. Director Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and I believed there isn’t an other way of opening people’s minds than by sharing personal stories.”. Clearly having struck an emotional chord with Audiences already, one might wonder what he would deem a success for the Film. He ponders the question and declares, “Just the fact that we made the Film. At the end of the day it’s a Film that I’m proud of, the Director is proud of, and I think Tom would be proud of. Now with the help of Oprah Winfrey and Netflix, I think it will spread the message in a very big way.”.
One can only imagine how difficult it must be to screen repeatedly a Film about something so deeply-painful and personal as what he still is going through. He admits, “It is hard revisiting the most difficult period of my life, but at the same time I see how it’s helping people and it makes me feel good – that I did the right thing by sharing my Story”. “When you put yourself out there, you open yourself to a lot of criticism, but also support. At the end of the day I had to trust my instincts and do what I felt was right to me. “.
Making Bridegroom truly was a labour of love and as Crone now calls it proudly, “The People’s Film”. From YouTube to the Big Screen and Television Sets, it wasn’t long before his Supporters were uniting their voices towards a call for change, contributing generously via Kickstarter – the World’s largest funding Platform for Creative Projects. “I was fortunate to have so many people believe in the Story and its message to the point that we have become the most funded Project in the history of Kickstarter“, he explains. “One thing which has been eye-opening in my experience is that I’d realize how many others have gone through similar and even more tragic stories. My Story is a lot of people’s stories and I think that’s one of the main reasons why we were so successful in people supporting us.”.
One unfortunate reality about this Documentary is that Tom Bridegroom‘s Family had refused any involvement in its making. His disputably-sympathetic Mother is seen briefly, but only in archived video footage sharing tender moments with him after his and Crone‘s dramatic ‘coming-out’ to her. “I still haven’t heard from any of them. I was told they wouldn’t participate. There are Family members of Tom whom are supportive. Some didn’t want to risk ruining their relationships with their Family”, he says as a matter of fact. “I see this as an opportunity to help a lot of people. It’s not too late for Tom‘s Parents to honour their Son for being who he was”. He adds, “I think for them to come out and share their voices and acknowledge that maybe they made a mistake and do what’s right – that would be so powerful”. “Maybe they’ll come around.”.
With the World eager to learn Crone‘s Story now, he is uncertain just what his next steps are and what the future will hold for him. “‘I don’t know what will happen next and I’d like to think it’ll all work-out the way it was supposed to. As long as I’m sharing a Story about people, I feel that’s my responsibility”. He pauses. “And that’s what I’m gonna do”.
Bridegroom is available for streaming via Netflix on Sunday, October 27, 2013. It premieres also on OWN that night at 10:00 PM EST.
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Thank you for sharing