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‘Pride’ encourages us to honor our creations – and ourselves

“Pride” (2014), Cast: Ben Schnetzer, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Joseph Gilgun, George MacKay, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Faye Marsay, Paddy Considine, Jessica Gunning, Menna Trussler, Lisa Palfrey, Liz White, Nia Gwynne, Russell Tovey, Rodri Meilir, Karina Fernandez, Jessie Cave, Jack Baggs, Kyle Rees, Freddie Fox. Director: Matthew Warchus. Screenplay: Stephen Beresford. Web site. Trailer.

Are we truly pleased with the lives we lead? Or do we let self-doubt, the expectations of others or the pressures of authority figures get in the way? How we answer those questions depends on how much we value our efforts – and ourselves – in the creation of our realities, no matter who we are or where we come from. These are among the issues brought to light in the new, fact-based inspirational comedy, “Pride.”

In 1984, the United Kingdom was embroiled in a nasty labor dispute in which striking coal miners locked heads with the Conservative Party government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013). With both sides at loggerheads with one another, the strike wore on for months, circumstances that took quite an economic toll on the miners. And, with Thatcher intractably clinging to her uncompromising stance, the PM effectively sought to starve the laborers into submission.

But, then, along came an unexpected ally.

At London’s Gay Pride Parade in June 1984, a new community organization was formed to provide assistance to the strikers, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. Organized by activist Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) and a handful of colleagues (Joseph Gilgun, George MacKay, Dominic West, Faye Marsay, Andrew Scott, Freddie Fox), the group sought to raise funds for – and awareness of the plight facing – families affected by the work stoppage. The thinking behind this unconventional campaign was for one persecuted community to offer aid to another that also suffered the heavy-handed oppression of officialdom, a means by which to build bridges between different, but similarly situated segments of society.

Ashton’s efforts were not without hurdles, however. Many members of the gay community – especially those who relocated to London from rural areas of the U.K. – were reluctant to support the people they left behind, the close-minded, homophobic attitudes prevalent among them having left a bitter taste in the transplants’ mouths. And, to complicate matters further, the strikers’ parent organization, the National Union of Mineworkers, turned down LGSM’s offers of assistance (despite its success in raising substantial amounts of cash), fearing that public perceptions might be tainted by its association with an openly gay group. Discouragement set in. But, before long, a new strategy was implemented that would change everything.

Rather than attempting to change the minds of the NUM bureaucracy, Ashton and company decided to instead focus their efforts on a single miners’ lodge, the striking workers from the small town of Onllwyn in the Dulais Valley of southern Wales. After an initial meeting with the local miners’ representative, Dai Donovan (Paddy Considine), the LGSM contingent set off for the Welsh countryside, having no idea what would await them.

At first, relations between the two factions were quite tense. With many of the townsfolk having never met anyone from the gay community before (at least knowingly), the locals were tentative in approaching the new arrivals. Many were unfamiliar with the ways of a big city subculture. And others, like one of the women’s auxiliary board members (Lisa Palfrey), were outright hostile. However, thanks to Dai’s enthusiastic endorsement of his new colleagues, the LGSM delegation gradually began winning over allies, including the lodge’s recording secretary (Bill Nighy), a number of the miners (Rodri Meilir, Kyle Rees) and several women’s auxiliary board members (Imelda Staunton, Jessica Gunning, Menna Trussler). A new bond was thus forged. But the developments that emerged from that unlikely alliance were far more sweeping than what anyone expected. The results would stun everyone – and have wide-ranging implications that spread across the nation.

It’s probably pretty safe to say that, in the days before the alliance’s formation, almost no one could have envisioned the existence of a coalition between Welsh coal miners and London’s gay community, let alone anything that these unlikely collaborators would eventually accomplish. However, Mark believed in that possibility, which, thanks to the conscious creation process, is what made it happen. The power of Ashton’s beliefs, combined with those of his cohorts and his divine creative partner, brought into being what most people likely couldn’t have foreseen. And the success of that seemingly improbable manifestation was so potent that it ultimately led to both an end to the strike and the birth of legally protected civil rights for members of the U.K.’s gay community.

Some beliefs.

For those who actively practice conscious creation, however, these results really shouldn’t come as a surprise. The beliefs that fostered these outcomes are, at their core, indicative of what it takes to make the process work, no matter what materialization is being sought. The scope of what was created here may be of a magnitude greater than what many of us typically would envision, but, at bottom, these outcomes have roots that arise from the same basic source that we use in conceiving and realizing any sought-after manifestation – our beliefs.

Perhaps the difference between this situation and most others is that the miners and the LGSM members had the vision to employ a broader view, one that draws upon several additional components of the conscious creation process. For instance, the creators at work here were willing to think outside the box, to draw upon beliefs that overcame the limitations that had been allowed to hold sway for so long. Exceeding those self-imposed barriers may take some expansion of one’s thinking, but, as the outcomes illustrate, the effort was clearly well worth it.

One of the keys to success in overcoming limited beliefs is to learn how to turn “negatives” into positives. If we indeed create everything that appears in our reality, then that would also include those elements we might see as setbacks or impediments. But their appearance in our existence, no matter how disappointing they may be, must be intended to serve some particular purpose, one destined to lead us to some as-yet-unforeseen favorable outcome; otherwise, we wouldn’t have manifested these phenomena in the first place.

The trick here is to recognize these circumstances and to figure out how to transform them. This is akin to the idea of making lemonade from life’s proverbial lemons. The LGSM members do this routinely in the film, such as when their meeting place – a London gay bookstore – is attacked by rock-throwing hooligans who unabashedly call them perverts, a term used by conservative members of the press to discredit them (and the miners) when word of their alliance is made public. However, rather than cower in fear and embarrassment, Mark encourages his peers to embrace the disparagement, even going so far as to use the term in the name of a fundraiser for the miners called “Pits and Perverts,” a name alluding to both factions of the coalition. The event, which featured a performance by the iconic gay band Bronski Beat, would prove to be a resounding success.

Part of the reason why such events and initiatives were so successful lies with the characters’ awareness of our inherent connectedness. In tapping into that component of the process, it helps immensely if we’re aware of our innate propensity for cooperation, a quality that some behavioral researchers have found is actually part of our intrinsic nature (as noted in the excellent Tom Shadyac documentary, “I Am” (2010)). By drawing upon cooperation in favor of competition, we significantly increase the likelihood of not only materializing what we seek, but also of exceeding our expectations, sometimes much more so than we could have imagined.

Mark is particularly aware of the importance of this. He discusses this notion with Dai in one especially poignant scene in which he explains why he’s brought the miners and the gay community together. Having grown up in Northern Ireland during the days of its internal strife, Mark said that no one spoke to one another during those violent times, creating an artificially imposed sense of separation that was difficult to overcome. He then added that he didn’t want to see the same happen to his newly adopted community in its relations with other parts of society (hence his plan for the alliance). In turn, Dai explained that the mining community had a long-established tradition of partners helping one another in times of need, a principle symbolized by a simple handshake. If one party benefits from another’s benevolence, Dai said, it’s incumbent upon the recipient of such magnanimity to return the favor when the need arises. And, as this film’s narrative plays out, it’s obvious these principles are at work in both communities in many ways, thanks to the beliefs driving their respective co-created manifestations.

Sometimes, however, success in this regard requires us to make others aware of our connectedness, especially if they can’t see it for themselves. This can be fostered by pointing out the relevance behind the connections, particularly when they may not be obvious. For instance, Mark is asked at one point why the gay community should support the miners, given that the nexus between these two disparate communities may not be apparent at first glance. Mark couches his response in practical terms to shine a light on the relevance of the innate connection between these groups: Miners, he says, produce coal, which is used to generate the electricity needed to power the clubs that members of the gay community attend so that they can dance to the music of Bananarama all night long. (Connection clarified.)

In taking a broader view like this, our inherent connectedness to everything in our reality thus becomes clear. Even elements that seem unrelated and far removed from one another are suddenly seen in a new light. Given that, we have an opportunity to gain a new perspective on our existence and everything in it. We might even come to see how its totality exceeds the sum of its parts, an insight that makes it possible for us to attain an entirely new appreciation for the world we create and experience.

With that new awareness, we also have an opportunity to value what we manifest. Of course, to get the most out of the experience, we’d be wise to do so with a sense of integrity, to materialize the reality we seek from a standpoint of truth and honesty. And, if we succeed at this, it just may be possible to take a cue from the film’s title and truly take pride in what we ultimately create, no matter what segment of society we come from.

“Pride” is an absolute knockout – well written, beautifully filmed and nicely paced – and the film delivers its message without ever becoming preachy, heavy-handed or schmaltzy. Its performances are terrific across the board, with especially fine portrayals turned in by Schnetzer, West, Staunton, Gunning and Nighy. The picture also does an excellent job of capturing the look and feel of the early ʼ80s, particularly in its depiction of the era’s changing attitudes toward such gay community issues as coming out, social tolerance and the emerging AIDS crisis, as well as public perceptions of the organized labor movement.

The film was released without much fanfare, and it’s currently playing in somewhat limited release (primarily at theaters specializing in independent cinema), so finding it may take some effort. However, “Pride” is definitely worth the search, as it’s one of the best movies released so far this year. For its efforts, the picture won the Queer Palm award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

I truly appreciate films that inspire as this one does. As a member of the gay community, it would be easy to say that I like this film just for its positive portrayal of my tribe, but that would be shortchanging everything else this picture has to offer. It stirs in so many ways, regardless of who we are and how we identify ourselves, engendering an uplifting sense of fulfillment. Indeed, it’s an enlightening, inspiring movie whose message we would all be wise to heed. And, if we do, that’s something in which we can all take pride.

Copyright © 2014, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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