“I first wanted to make RUTHIE & CONNIE because they’re such wonderful characters—so funny, so engaging. Secondly, I loved their love story. And then, as I got to know Ruthie and Connie better, I saw the depth of their commitment: the risks they took, the price they paid to be their true, authentic selves. We all can learn from that kind of courage.
“In addition, the film addresses another incredibly important issue: people’s inability to accept differences – which leads to so much misunderstanding and, all too often, oppression. I realized that by telling Ruthie’s and Connie’s story, I could make a film about the destructiveness of homophobia with both humor and tears.
“So I joined Donald Goldmacher’s team – and immediately gained two mothers (Jewish, to boot!). Ruthie and Connie became my ‘co-directors.’ My plan was to hang out with them, to capture vérité scenes as they unfolded – but they were always organizing things, inviting people over to give their version of the ‘story.’ It was almost like that old TV show, This is Your Life, except they were organizing it. It became quite comic. We’d shoot a scene or an interview and afterwards, Ruthie would ask me, ‘How was that for you?’ No one’s ever asked me that question before, except in bed!
“My main regret is that Ruthie’s three children and Connie’s son – who are such an important part of the story – were unwilling to be part of the film. It’s not as though they’re estranged; except for Ruthie’s youngest, they’re actually very close. Some even came to the 25th anniversary celebration – but I wasn’t allowed to show their faces. Even though Ruthie has zero tolerance for anyone who’s still in the closet, she is very protective of her kids’ privacy. It’s unfortunate – mainly because their absence gives the wrong impression.
“But despite that disappointment, it was a great experience. I learned so much from these two women. They taught me how important it is to be myself, whatever the consequences. They taught me to laugh at pain, and to turn my anger into useful outrage. They taught me to tap my thymus every morning and say twice out loud: ‘Something good is going to happen to me today.’ They taught me where to find the most delicious chocolate-covered graham crackers in Brooklyn.
“And most important of all, they let me in. The ability to enter and inhabit other worlds is central to my vision as a filmmaker. That’s why I love documentaries, especially vérité. I truly believe that reality is stranger, and often more powerful, than fiction – especially when it concerns love and loss. I always gravitate toward stories about individuals, especially women, who overcome hardship, whether external or internal. I zero in on the ‘small’ stories, the decisive moments, the choices, motivations – and then I look for the comedy inherent in tragedy. To me, that’s story-telling. In a funny way, that’s why I like what Ruthie said after screening the film for the first time: ‘But it’s not a documentary, not the kind I’ve seen. It’s like a real movie!’’’