In the heart-wrenching documentary Letter to Anita, award-winning filmmaker Andrea Meyerson explores the painful legacy of singer Anita Bryant’s infamous anti-gay campaign of the late 1970s. Narrated by Emmy-nominated actress Meredith Baxter, Letter to Anita tells the story of Ronni Sanlo, a married mother of two who came out as a lesbian and divorced her husband, losing custody of her children as a result—an injustice that propelled Ronni into a life of LGBT activism.
I asked Ronni Sanlo and Meredith Baxter what this film means to them.
“During all of my years doing HIV work and in higher education at Michigan and UCLA, I’ve always imbedded current LGBT issues in the context of our history. I feel deeply that our history must be preserved, so I share it every time I speak on college campuses and at conferences. While this film is about me and a part of my life, my story serves primarily as the conduit for teaching yet other aspects of who we LGBT people are, how we got here, and what we need to do to move forward with love.
Andrea (Meyerson did a brilliant job of envisioning and executing the film, and Meredith was such a tender yet powerful voice in her narration and reading. Kelly Watson generously provided the means to make this film happen, and my son Erik and Anita Bryant’s son Robert bravely shared their feelings with us as well. In my estimation, this film is an important addition to the teaching of LGBT history and I’m grateful to everyone involved in its making.”
“It was quite an honor to be asked to participate in this movie. Andrea and Ronni were painstaking in assembling all the facts of Ronni’s painfully riveting story and placing them in an historical framework that emphasized the timeliness and drama.
I grew up in a very liberal home in the Hollywood Hills which shaped how I experienced much the world. I was pretty much unaware of anything that wasn’t about me, back in those days. But I do remember even as a young girl being horrified by Anita Bryant. I was so startled by her cruel, hateful, divisive actions towards the gay community and the fear mongering she promoted. Meeting Ronni and hearing her story put a sweet face on the direct suffering that resulted from the malicious and irresponsible policies Bryant promoted.
And that letter…a historical document to be sure!
I was so moved reading Ronni’s letter where she takes the brave and rigorous path to understand Anita; where she finds the similarities in their lives to make Anita more human…where Ronni reaches deep for the compassion she needs so she can forgive Anita, even after suffering so very much as a result of Anita’s actions.. Ronni knows that it is only through forgiveness will she have a chance to walk freely and live unburdened by the devastation of the past. That is a mighty profound message to leave with an audience. That is a template for serenity; a personal victory against an historical backdrop. It’s a dyn-o-mite movie!”
Check it out at:
Monday, July 14, 7:15pm
Harmony Gold Theatre
7655 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
Andrea Meyerson, Ronni Sanlo, Meredith Baxter