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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: November 14, 2016

Documentary captures life of gay Portland couple and their family — flaws and all

Written by: Ray Routhier
Erik Mercer and Sandro Sechi of Portland, with their children, Rachel and Eleonora, are the subject of the documentary film "The Guys Next Door." Photo courtesy of A Squared Films

Erik Mercer and Sandro Sechi of Portland, with their children, Rachel and Eleonora, are the subject of the documentary film “The Guys Next Door.” Photo courtesy of A Squared Films

Erik Mercer didn’t expect a film about his family – husband Sandro Sechi and daughters Eleonora and Rachel Maria – to go this far. But he’s glad it has.

When filmmaker Amy Geller first contacted him a few years ago, he wasn’t sure what kind of film she was making or how his family fit in. But he liked Geller, a fellow Bates College grad, right away. He and Sechi were comfortable enough to allow Geller and her film-making partner, Allie Humenuk, visit them often in Portland and film them over a three-year period. The filmmakers also spent lots of time with Mercer’s college friend Rachel Segall, who was the surrogate for Mercer’s and Sechi’s daughters.

Mercer hadn’t thought a lot during the process about what kind of message or reach a film about his family might have. But since the election of Donald Trump as president — a win seen by many as a blow to women, gays, lesbians and minorities — he thinks the film about his family has gained a new importance.

“I think now it’s really important to get this story out to people. My hope is that families can seen themselves in this, that a straight conservative man can see himself dealing with the same things we do,” said Mercer, 48. “Just as I hope we can all try to see ourselves in other people. It’s really a two-way street.”

Rachel Segall served as the surrogate for both daughters of Erik Mercer and Sandro Sechi of Portland, the subject of a documentary film called "The Guys Next Door" being screened Friday at Waynflete School in Portland. >em> Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Rachel Segall served as the surrogate for both daughters of Erik Mercer and Sandro Sechi of Portland, the subject of a documentary film called “The Guys Next Door” being screened Friday at Waynflete School in Portland.
Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

The film about Mercer and Sechi’s family, “The Guys Next Door,” will be screened Friday at 7 p.m. at Waynflete School in Portland. The event is jointly organized by Waynflete and Breakwater School in Portland. The filmmakers will take questions after the film.

Geller, a Boston-based filmmaker, first became interested in Mercer and Sechi after reading a story about them in the Bates College alumni magazine. At the time, the two Portland men had already had one daughter, Rachel Maria, carried by Segall. And at the time, she was carrying their second child, who would be named Eleonora.

“I was struck by the story, the fact that this woman (Segall) would offer to have kids for her friends not once but twice,” said Geller. “It looked like an incredibly loving, extended family. It struck me as a beautiful story.” With funding from foundations and donations on Kickstarter, Geller and Humenuk filmed Mercer and Sechi in Portland, or Segall in Massachusetts, about once a month for more than a year. They also filmed the couple’s daughters (now, 4 and 6) as they got older. The filmmakers even traveled with the family to Sechi’s native Italy.

The 74-minute documentary has played at more than a dozen film festivals around the country. It will be available for sale on DVD and for streaming, at the film’s website, theguysnextdoorthemovie.com. The filmmakers hope to have more Maine screenings.

Sechi said he hopes to have the film shown in Italy, where he says gay rights lag behind the United States.

Mercer said he thinks that the film’s power is enhanced by the portrayal of him and Sechi, and their extended family, as having the same flaws as anyone else.

“If it was a story of this perfect little gay family, that would wouldn’t do a lot of good,” said Mercer. “But it’s not overly sweet, it’s real.”

“THE GUYS NEXT DOOR”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Franklin Theater at Waynflete School, 360 Spring St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $15
INFO: eventbrite.com

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