Category Archives: GLBT documentary

“JESUS MEETS THE GAY MAN— A Documentary

“Jesus Meets The Gay Man”

A Documentary

Amos Lassen

“Jesus Meets the Gay Man” is a film that was made to look at what Jesus would have said or done if he had met a gay person and attempts to bring the Christian and LGBT communities together through the use of humor and critical thinking as we look at whether forgiveness on both sides can happen. In the style of Monty Python, we see sketches that aim at reconciliation, forgiveness and renewal in which we see a different Jesus “while at the same time convincing you to work on your abs!”

This is a documentary unlike any you have seen and it gives us a new understanding about religion and homosexuality. Most of us, regardless of sexuality are searching for some kind of peace in life of us and we know that this peace is not only for the Christian straight person. Here is a film that will break down closets and air them out. There is no doubt that this is a controversial topic yet it would be more controversial not to deal with it at all. The film challenges us to search our hearts to find the truth.

Since I have yet to see the film, I can only tell you about what I have heard but rest assured that as soon as I see it will further add to this. The film is about a hockey-loving young man who lives in Timmins Ontario in the 80’s.  He tells his story his story to his friend, a fellow Writer and director, Timothy F H Doucette, a straight guy who loves Jesus as they reflect on some of their lives. Both men take off on a journey with a camera crew on the hunt of what Jesus would say to a gay man. They explore the issues from both the gay positive side and the Christian side as they pursue reconciliation, forgiveness and renewal. 

Bonus features include deleted scenes, over two hours of additional interview footage, and more.

“ALIVE”— Five HIV Positive Men

 

“ALIVE!” (“Vivant!”)

Five HIV Positive Men

Amos Lassen

“Alive” is about a week of training that five HIV+ go through before they experience their first solo parachute jump. We watch as unlikely friendships develop under strange conditions. and documents the development of unlikely friendships that develop between such a disparate group.

The focus is on the interpersonal relationships of the five men and the very intense training for the parachute jump. The training is both physically and mentally demanding and the men visibly struggle to assimilate all the need to Know in order to make a successful jump.

As jump day gets closer, the group witness a near-catastrophic problem in the air and they and the viewers understand the that they’re in a little more danger than they previously realized and this makes for compelling viewing. Slowly the documentary shifts to focus more on the friendships that are formed as the jump comes closer. As the relationships between the men evolve, some of the conversations are much more intimate and personal among this group of strangers.

The five men have very different viewpoints on the relationships they shares with significant others and sexual partners. We hear of their first loves, first kisses and some less-enjoyable situations they have found themselves in. Some of these stories can be quite emotional and difficult to listen to but they also make for a much deeper understanding of the situation these men deal with on a daily basis. We are doubly entertained here with the beauty of nature and the sky and with moments of introspection and intimacy. The stories tell of loneliness and fear of intimacy giving us insight into the men’s lives.

“MYKKI BLANCO GOES OUT OF THE WORLD”— Rapper and Artist

“Mykki Blanco Goes Out Of This World”

Rapper and Activist

Amos Lassen

American rapper and activist Mykki Blanco explores queer culture in Johannesburg.  Blanco seeks to breakdown barriers and share all her new experiences in this documentary. Blanco is a 31 years old, African American who visits for the first time.” 

She meets boundary pushing artists Umilio and FAKA, designer Rich Mnisi and Bradley and Nkulsey, a model and dancer and learns that they all use their platforms to give a voice to issues surrounding the politics of their sexuality, gender, identity and humanity in South Africa.  This fils is a special treat with this film.

“BEHIND THE CURTAIN: TODRICK HALL”— An Intimate Look

“Behind The Curtain : Todrick Hall”

An Intimate Look

Amos Lassen

YouTube sensation Todrick Hall is a man who is driven by his passion to express himself creatively, and unafraid to tackle serious issues. He writes, records, and shoots music videos for his own socially conscious, and deeply personal, visual album “Straight Outta Oz.” He plans every detail including sets, costumes, choreography and more for the tour he will take after the album is released. In this documentary, we meet the man behind the music. It focuses on how he came to terms with his identity as a gay black man, and how he has used it to create an inclusive atmosphere for his fans. He shares coming out to his mother, discussing the impact of events like the Orlando nightclub shooting and lamenting about choosing his career over his one true love.

Hall is the type of entertainer and human being that we need to see more of in show business. Now at 32 years old, we see him as a man of ambition. He is a  rapper/singer/songwriter/actor/dancer/producer.  Director Katherine Fairfax Wright didn’t know who Todrick Hall was when she was offered a job to direct this film and we see that she not only found out who he is but she even fell in love with him as they worked together. That love makes this film very special.

“Straight Outta Oz” is Hall’s personal history set to music and dance and he tells us that as he was writing this album, he and Awesomeness Films decided that the documentary should follow him as he did so.

The documentary begins as Hall is about to start his new musical based loosely on “The Wizard of Oz” in which he incorporates his own life story, including his tough childhood growing up gay in a conservative religious African/American family. The show is a cathartic experience for him and also one that brings him closer to the audience.  One of Hall’s greatest talents is that he is really able to connect with his fans.

it is somewhat exhausting to watch Hall actually unwind with his very supportive boyfriend and we see that he has a totally different life when he is not being filmed or performing.

“BETWEEN TWO-SPIRIT”— Becoming a Woman at Sixty

“Between Two-Spirit”

Becoming A Woman At Sixty

Amos Lassen

Two-Spirit is a native American term used to describe Indians who fulfill both roles of a man and a woman : almost like a third gender.

As Chris Muth was nearing his 60th birthday, he had just dealt with a life threatening illness. He was a Professor of Management at a High School of Engineering in Geneva and decided that the time had come for a change. That change involved his becoming woman or as he said, he wanted to make his outside body conform to the way he felt within. 

When he was in his 20’s and studying at the University, Chris lived in a Commune in Zurich and joined a club for Transvestite Women and started to cross-dress for the first time in his life. When he met his future wife, his life took him on a straighter and more serious conventional path, and he settled down and became a father and a successful businessman before moving on to become a professor.

We are not told about the years in between but everyone was shocked when they discovered what the wanted to do so it is safe to assume that in that time, he had lived completely as a man. Even when he leaves Geneva for Thailand to have gender re-alignment surgery this is the first time any of his friends had ever seen him seen him wear women’s clothes.

 Filmmaker Laurence Périgaud actually met Chris by chance at a Conference on Transexuality just a few weeks prior to the start of filming this documentary. The movie begins with the surgery and covers the first year of transitioning. Chris’s Swiss Doctor explains that in cases of people wanting to undergo hormonal or surgical transition to the other sex there is the Harry Benjamin Code of Practice recognized by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health which determines the protocols that should be followed.  In Chris’s case the doctor allowed Chris to fast-track the whole process. He has barely been on hormones for eight months, and even more important is that he had never had to live openly as a woman for some time as all other patients do.  We assume that this is because of his age.

In Thailand the Doctor gave Chris a new softer more feminine face and altered his genitalia as well. When he recovered, Chris returned to Geneva to face the world, but only little by little.  At home she is Christa a new woman, but at work and in society he is still Chris the man.  This is not hard to do because so much clothing now is unisex. He had planned to come out to his employers and his colleagues at the end of the semester, but the rumor mill beat him to it.

 Chris/Christa’s world is conservative and his fellow professors and friends struggle to come to terms with the complete shock of his new identity and some have managed to do so but with a bit of reluctance. The School President offers her support but the Industrial Association, the professional organization that he is president of has asked for her resignation.   His ex-wife has filed for divorce and their daughter will have nothing to do with her father.

The film focuses only on the positive side of the transitioning making it a bit unrealistic and we, of course, question the decision to by-pass many of the crucial safeguards that are normally in place.   Nonetheless, Christa Muth is likable and personable and has a fine sense of self deprecating humor. She is brave and even courageous in recognizing that it’s never too late in life to become true to who you really are regardless of the consequences.   Where I live there are three people in their 80s who are transitioning and I admire their desire to do so. The movie was special for me in that my niece, an academic like Christa, transitioned at age 41 and was allowed to keep his tenure.

“THE WITNESS”— The Case for Kitty Genovese

“The Witness”

The Case of Kitty Genovese

Amos Lassen

James Solomon’s moving documentary chronicles Bill Genovese’s quest for the truth behind his sister Kitty’s notorious murder.

Kitty Genovese’s case became synonymous with apathy after news that she was stabbed to death on a New York City street while 38 witnesses did nothing. Now some forty years later, her brother decides to find the truth. He uncovers a lie that changed his life, condemned a city and defined an era. The case of Kitty Genovese brought about a national outcry. When 28-year-old bar worker, Kitty Genovese was murdered, news reports—especially a front-page story in the New York Times claimed that dozens of her neighbors watched the crime unfold over a half-hour but did nothing to help her and the incident became a symbol of modern urban resident’s fear of “getting involved.”

However, in the last ten years another investigative narrative has challenged and replaced the original. This one charges that Times editor Abe Rosenthal oversaw that the manufacture of a modern horror story in which much of the reporting was skewed to fit the message or was completely wrong. Since the revisionist take has gotten lots of attention saying much about the media’s power to create myths and distort the public’s perception of events.

More than a decade ago, the filmmaker was involved in trying to put together an HBO dramatic film about the Genovese case with playwright Alfred Uhry and documentarian Joe Berlinger but it never got off the ground so Solomon decided to make a documentary on the subject in partnership with Bill Genovese, one of Kitty’s three surviving brothers. This film has been in the making for eleven years.

Bill Genovese is a retiree who lost both legs in the Vietnam War and he feels that this the film is an attempt to discover the truth behind the media reports of his sister’s murder and achieve a personal emotional resolution to the event that traumatized his family members so much that they did not dare speak about it. Solomon’s skills and Genovese’s sincerity and intelligence make this quite a thoughtful and satisfying cinematic experience.

Despite his disability, Bill gets around well and Solomon’s cameras follow him as he revisits the scene of the crime and talks with those who were there at the time. As the original news stories correctly reported, Kitty was coming home late when a man stabbed her from behind. She screamed loudly and made her way into her building’s hallway where the murderer returned a half-hour later and killed her. However, the claim of “38 witnesses” who ignored her plight seems to have something made up; many heard her screams but, contrary to the Times, most could not see the crime. Unquestionably, some who could’ve acted to help her did not. One woman says that she called the police and told others they had done so. had done so (a claim that can’t be substantiated). Contrary to the reports that his sister died alone, Bill speaks with a neighbor and friend of Kitty’s who tells of holding her when she took her last breath.

This film shows the tragedy’s nuances and human complexities and  examines the murder’s unusual peripheral circumstances, in which 38 witnesses did nothing to try and help Genovese as she cried out to be helped. As Bill revisited what happened then, he discovered previously unknown details about his sister’s life. He learned that she was a lesbian and was involved with local, small-time gambling rings. Solomon follows Bill’s pursuits regarding personal reconciliation, the breakdown of community, and journalistic malpractice and we learn that Times editor Abe Rosenthal changed certain details in order to sell a story of a neighborhood of people are totally removed from one another.

The film presents Genovese’s identity as an afterthought, turning her living days and nights into incidental details that the filmmakers quickly hustle through in order to return to the circumstances surrounding her murder.

Bill is genuinely haunted by his sister’s murder and, in fact, he enlisted in the military shortly after her murder. The fact that he lost both of his legs has become a visible, material reminder of loss. Solomon captures these feelings outside of direct confrontations, like at a family dinner that results in members asking Bill when he’ll be satisfied and quit researching her murder. By film’s end, Bill’s quest is still somewhat cloudy and we do not understand what his compulsion for more information actually means. This is a cathartic film for Bill Genovese and he is the heart and soul of what we see.

The documentary provides substantial evidence that several of the 38 witnesses, whose names were uncovered in an earlier investigation by the TV program 20/20, did indeed call the police and/or shout at the assailant to stop. Among the media figures that covered the case were Gabe Pressman and the late Mike Wallace and both are seen in interviews here. Wallace admits that the story was “a media creation” to a certain degree, and both cite the power of the press in its becoming accepted as truth.

“SUBMERGED QUEER SPACES”— Our History Through an Architectural Slant

“Submerged Queer Spaces”

Our History Through an Architectural Slant

Amos Lassen

Jack Curtis Dubowsky’s documentary “Submerged Queer Spaces” is a documentary that looks at queer history through an approach of urban archeology concentrating on San Francisco. As the city grew and gentrified, communities changed, shifted, and were displaced. Places such as bars, restaurants, parks, alleys, bathhouses, and other sites where gay people came together were remodeled, rebuilt, destroyed or changed their reasons for being. The film examines what is left of these historic sites and buildings. in San Francisco. Eight people are interviewed and give firsthand experiences of these sites. Gerald Fabien experienced gay San Francisco before WWII, and tells stories about sailors, mariners, and the dangers of Union Square cruising. Guy Clark and Jae Whitaker speak about the unexpected racism they felt in a city that was supposedly liberal. We gain a historical look into those places that are gone but that were once very popular.

Through voiceover narrations by former patrons of places like The Black Cat and one-time cruisers in Union Square, we learn of places that once enjoyed had a strong gay community that has been lost because of gentrification and social displacement. This is a friendly study for everyone but especially for San Francisco natives.

Dubowsky found some of the people he interviews at a group called San Francisco Prime Timers and by word of mouth. We hear Gerald Fabien’s story about cruising a sailor who ended up being a murderer and are reminded that when being openly gay or actively sexual included risks. Doug Hilsinger speaks about The Eagle Tavern, and how its architecture affected the vibe and socialization there. The physical and social space of the Eagle Tavern played a very large role in its original creation and success.

Visiting some of these sites and finding architectural remains was like unearthing an ancient tomb. At the Blue and Gold and the Club Baths, there are still bits of tile that are decades old. There were also many mysteries but a lot of street numbers had been changed, so a documented address might no longer exist.

“ANATOMY OF A MALE BALLET DANCER”— The Athlete as Artist

“Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer”

The Athlete as Artist

Amos Lassen

Documentary team David Barba and James Pellerito are with Brazilian ballet star Marcelo Gomes as he crosses the career landmark of his 20th anniversary with American Ballet Theatre. Gomes has been a rare dancer who is a versatile leading man and\  the best partner of his generation. The filmmakers take us on an intimate journey from Gomes’ native Brazil to the stage of the Metropolitan and beyond to show just how much dedication and discipline are necessary for one to reach the top and how much physical stress is imposed on the body in the process.

Through the use of archival footage, rehearsal and privileged backstage footage and dressing room interviews, we see Gomes as a charming personality, a serious artist, and a fun-loving regular guy. The film was made over a period of seven years and it highlights spends as much time highlighting his aptitude for partnering. Several ballerinas including Misty Copeland, Polina Semionova and Diana Vishneva speak of Gomes’ technique, sensitivity and connection that makes him such a generous and Gomes’ dedication to his art is as inspiring as “the breathtaking grace and strength of his dancing.” The filmmakers have traveled the world in order to film him on stages in Athens, Saint Petersburg, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.

In 2003 Gomes became the first major ballet dancer to come out on the cover of the LGBT magazine “The Advocate”. When local training in Brazil had taken him as far as he could go, Gomes left home at 13 and came to the United States. Gomes is very attached to his family, especially his mother. Ballet in Brazil back then, was strictly for girls and he grew up as the only male in ballet class. He had to deal with the bullying of other kids at school as a result of his feelings that he was born to dance.

He was encouraged by his gay uncle Paulo and Paulo’s longtime partner, Wolf, who often took him to the ballet. Paulo died of AIDS in 1993 but Gomes has remained close to Wolf and the example of a stable long term relationship made it easier for Gomes to accept his sexuality. After divorcing Gomes’ mother, Gomes’ father started a new family, and despite repeat invitations, he has not been to see his son dance in New York in more than 10 years. This is painful for Gomes. We see the grueling rehearsals that Gomes participates in and they usually end with him slumped on the floor and we also see his triumphant performances. Preparations and body maintenance are every bit as riveting as performances. There are daily rigors in the gym and endless stretching, massages and other treatments required for ankles that often seemed to be deformed from swelling. Ballet is seen as a career path that is taxing on the body. At 37, Gomes has had surgeries for torn ligaments in one ankle and tendonitis in the other. He lives in fear of injury.

Gomes lives with an absence of ego and a sense of gratitude. He is very much in touch with his roots and is deeply respectful of ballet history. He is very much aware of the time limit on his performing years and he understands that he is nearing the end. He has already begun moving into the next phase of his life as a choreographer.

Unfortunately, the fact of the economic impossibility of getting footage from Gomes’ anniversary performance at the American Ballet Theater along with the disappointing absence of his father gives us a film that is missing something. Nonetheless the closing footage of Gomez posing in Central Park is visually stunning.

“FAMILIES LIKE YOURS”— Becoming Parents

 

“Families Like Yours”

Becoming Parents

Amos Lassen

Six different LGBTQ families are the focus of “Families Like Yours”, a new documentary by Argentineans filmmakers Rodolfo Moro and Marcos Duszczak. We meet Patrick and Juan Luque Duffy whose surrogate gave birth to triplets to add that they are raising along side their son. Actor Denis O’Hare and his husband Hugo Redwood faced a lot of homophobia and bureaucracy before the got their son. Trans man Aspen Hawke and his wife Mandy both work with LGBT youth and they adopted ended up adopting two teenage lesbians who had really been abused by their biological families and then by their foster homes. Erwynn and Will Umali Behrens were married to women when they first met and both were already parents and their ex-wives have not had a easy time with the way things turned out.

Chris Crespo’s wife Jane Switzer was told by her doctor that she needed to hurry if she wanted to give birth and with the help of a sperm donor she indeed gave birth to triplets.

All of the stories are moving and inspiring and we really see the new family as it exists.

“FORBIDDEN GAMES: THE JUSTIN FASHANU STORY”— The First Openly Gay Footballer

“Forbidden Games : The Justin Fashanu Story”

The First Openly Gay Footballer

Amos Lassen

Directors Adam Darke and Jon Carey look Justin Fashanu’s legacy. He was the first openly gay footballer in the United Kingdom. He was also the first £1 million black footballer, and a figure of fascination for tabloid journalists until he hanged himself in 1998, at the age of 36.

Fashanu was one of five children born to Nigerian parents in Central London. He and his younger brother John were given up for adoption by their mother when they were still infants and raised a white family in Shropham, Norfolk. They grew up as anomalies in an overwhelmingly white part of the country. Both Fashanus were gifted footballers, and were both picked up by Norwich as schoolboys. Justin was quick, strong, and gifted in sports and off the field, he liked fast cars, nice clothes, and the adulation of being a star in a provincial city could bring.

However, it was the £1 million move in 1981 to Nottingham Forest and his being managed by the Brian Clough that was partly responsible for Fashanu’s descent. Rumors spread about his late-night trips to the city’s gay clubs and he often went AWOL causing Clough to become very angry.

Fashanu hung around the middle-tiers of English football for a couple of years, but then a terrible knee injury threatened to end his career. After expensive rehab in the US, he spent the rest of his career bouncing between the UK, the US, Canada, and even New Zealand, playing for ever-more anonymous teams. Justin’s sexuality had become an open secret by the late ’80s. When he did come out of the closet, in an interview in 1990, he spoke about affairs with male MPs.

Fashanu needed money and that the tabloids could offer him that in return for ever-more salacious details about his love life. However, he was, in effect, searching for his identity. The documentary

features interviews with John Fashanu shot specifically for the film. John talks openly about his successful effort to stop his brother from joining him as a player at Wimbledon as he recovered from injury. The week after the story broke, John gave an exclusive interview entitled “John Fashanu: My Gay Brother Is an Outcast” and followed that up with more homophobic comments to the press. The two brothers who had once been so very close, barely spoke again. While John later admitted that he regretted many of the things he said yet this interview remains a conflicted part in Justin’s story. John later said that he didn’t think that Justin was gay after all and that his brother was merely seeking attention. The two brothers were both seeking acceptance, validation, fame and a sense of identity. Despite the personal nature of the tragedy, the film is also about a time when homosexuality was not acceptable behavior.

We see a man constantly in conflict with himself, almost to the point of self-sabotage and a gifted player and magnetic personality who couldn’t find any peace. The documentary is a fascinating story of outsized highs and lows told in straightforward but tightly woven chronological form and against a background of bullying and bigotry in football.