An old man walks into a bar, where he sees a young couple kissing.
He approaches them with an intimidating look on his face. Our hearts drop as we're led to think that this might not end well.
That's when something unexpected happens. Instead of confronting the couple, he starts kissing one of them. A third character starts kissing him, and on it goes as a lineup of colorful characters carry the kiss-train through city streets, into a cop car, and finally to a hotel pool.
More than just a make-out session, the short film has a strong message to convey about love, equality, and acceptance.
"Equal Love" was created as a way to communicate a vision: a world free from judgment, where gender, sexuality, and age are no longer the lines that divide us, but the notes that turn us into a symphony.
What you don't see in the video is the personal story that led each cast member to the project.
"I was cast through a street-casting, so it sort of took me by surprise," says Cairo, the actor in the first scene who kisses the old man. Cairo, a transgender man, had taken a yearlong break from acting to begin his transition.
"My biggest fear was that I wouldn't be able to work as an actor," Cairo says. "And I kind of proved myself wrong."
Everyone involved in the film knew right away they were stepping into something powerful.
Pete Mynch, another actor who appears in the film, was immediately excited by its celebration of expression and individuality.
"Expressing freedom as well as expressing yourself as an individual ... it's a good message, isn't it?" Mynch says. "This story is asking people, maybe in some way, to look at their own belief system."
Absolut Vodka deliberately hired diverse actors to make a statement about acceptance — one they've been making for years.
They began advertising directly to their LGBTQ customers in 1981, a time when being gay was heavily stigmatized and supporting the LGBTQ community might earn you more protest than praise.
In 1986, Absolut collaborated with openly gay artists Andy Warhol and Keith Haring to create art that supported LGBTQ causes. In 2003, they partnered with Gilbert Baker, creator of the Pride flag, to create the world’s largest pride flag that extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.
"Equal Love" is the continuation of that work and its evolution into a celebration of even more kinds of diversity.
"All the characters are different," says Sid Ouared, another actor in the film. "You have the police officer, you have the grumpy old man. … There's someone representing all of us."
At a time when the world feels divided and brands have tried and failed to capitalize on healing that divide, Absolut seems to know what they're doing a little more than most.
The film's timing is no accident either. It's being released right after Pride Month.
"I think this advert is much more open-minded," Cairo says. "I’d spoken to the producer and director, and they seemed really up to date and really positive. I felt like they’d done their research."
"It will get people talking," Ouared says. "It will get people's attention, and it will spread a positive message and raise awareness to diversity."
"Equal Love" may not heal the world's divides, but it's still doing something pretty important.
It's portraying a world where kissing is an expression of the soul as much as the heart — a world where love is, quite simply, love.
"I think it’s so good to be a part of something that says — behind everything — it just doesn’t really matter about your gender or your sexuality. We’re just all equal and human," Cairo says. "It just makes me proud."