Category Archives: GLBT documentary

“CALL ME MARIANNA”— Beginning Life Again

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“Call Me Marianna” (“Mów mi Marianna”)

Beginning Life Again

Amos Lassen

 Marianna Klapczyńska who began life as Wojtek Klapczyński, was married, had children, and at 47 after many, many painful years of reflection underwent a sex-change/gender reassignment surgery (in Poland) to become Marianna.  Polish law requires that a person requesting gender reassignment surgery to sue his/her parents for “bad upbringing” so that someone would be blamed. This proved to be a nightmare to Marianna. Even after her surgery her mother kept calling her Wojtek.   Marianna’s daughters rejected her as well.  The only one in the family who seemed understand (with understandable inner conflict and difficulty) was Wojtek’s/Marianna’s former spouse and she actually helped Marianna.

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The first time we see Marianna she is on her way to court to comply with Polish law. Marianna is an attractive woman in her 40s who lives alone with a cat. She seems to be doing ok and gets the necessary permission and the surgery in Gdansk goes well. She has met a man who accepts her for what she is, but there are unexpected problems coming her way.

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The film follows Marianna as she confronts her past. She was married for 25 years and has two children, and is now trying to re-establish contact with Kasia, her ex-wife. However, it seems all of Polish society is ostracizing Marianna, or at least this is the feeling we get from the film. There are no scenes of outright aversion and we see that basically Marianna is on her own.

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Just before her surgery, Marianna starts her first relationship with a man, and that seems to now make her completely happy.  When she comes around after the operation she is seen on the phone talking excitedly that she feels that she has been re-born and at peace at last. This happiness doesn’t last very long, as she is quite soon back in the hospital, but this time fighting for her life as an excessive intake of hormones caused her to have a stroke.

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She must learn how to speak and try and get some movement back into her limbs. the normally very positive Marianna gets very depressed knowing that she now must face the fact that all her plans for the future must now be put on hold permanently.  Her mother adamantly refuses to come visit her on her sickbed, and her daughters will still not even acknowledge her, but her ex-wife Kasia is happy enough to turn up to celebrate Marianna’s birthday.

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We learn most of the troubled part of the story when Marianna sits in her wheelchair and participates in a reading of a play that she has written on her life.  This serves as a narration to the movie. Polish filmmaker Karolina Bielawska has been winning awards all over the world for this documentary and deservedly so. This is a very poignant look at transgender issues. And by the way, the new boyfriend has not only stuck around but he acts as both the force propelling Marianna’s wheelchair and the one that is encouraging her to have hope for her future.

“FORBIDDEN: UNDOCUMENTED AND QUEER IN RURAL AMERICA— Fighting for Justice and Equality

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“Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America”

Fighting for Justice and Equality

Amos Lassen

Premiering at Outfest 2016 is the story of Moises Serrano. His parents fled Mexico 23 years old hoping to find a better life. Now Serrano is a gay man and forbidden to live in the United States because he is undocumented. The only choice he has now is fight for justice and demand equality. He faces significant hurdles based on his undocumented status, his sexuality, and the limited resources available living in a rural area.

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Moises’ story is one of personal transformation and it leads us to question our government and wonder is there any solution for cases like this. Moises’ battle is a battle for human rights. America is his adopted home—he grew up here and has spent his entire life here but he must leave because even though he feels 100% America, he is not. We see Moises as a passionate and complex young man and his story is certainly relevant to the other 11 million undocumented immigrants that live in the United States today.

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Moises is an ideal character for challenging stereotypes about undocumented immigrants and same-sex couples. Viewers can readily connect to his passion, complexity, and all-around likability. His story relates directly to the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., and LGBTQ individuals fighting for equality and civil rights. “Forbidden” gives a face to those immigrants and as it does, it “humanizes their issues, decriminalizes the adult immigration story and asks us to reconsider what it means to be an American.”

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We have seen and heard for the last few months how Donald Trump, has said terrible things that are what he feels about immigrants. “Forbidden” fights back his and others damaging and uninformed ideas. W see here “how a loving family has the power to combat the destructive oppression of entire groups of people”.

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Moises’ experience is like so many other gay undocumented youth and shows the need to address bullying and create spaces where people do not have to hide or fear for their lives, nor should they be ashamed of any aspect of their identity.

“THE FREEDOM TO MARRY”— How Marriage Equality Was Won

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“The Freedom to Marry”

How Marriage Equality Was Won

Amos Lassen

The documentary by Eddie Rosenstein, “The Freedom to Marry” is an inside look at the movement that transformed a nation and the law. The film that provides an emotional, behind-the-scenes view of the campaign and strategy that ended marriage discrimination nationwide.

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We hear directly from April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse – two of the courageous plaintiffs who took the fight for the dignity of their family and children all the way to the Supreme Court. We see and hear from Mary Bonauto she prepared to stand before the nine justices of the Supreme Court to make the case for marriage. We go across the country with the “Freedom to Marry” team and see its members working with organizations and allies to rack up the building-block wins and create the climate that allowed for victory.

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“The Freedom to Marry” is the behind-the-scenes story of those who did the work and transformed a “preposterous notion” into one of the most successful civil rights campaigns in history.

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Evan Wolfson is the founder and president of the now-defunct “Freedom to Marry” organization whose goal was to legalize same-sex marriage. Now after a hard-fought 32-year battle, his mission is over and the campaign that he led is over and the movement has closed its doors. Not only is the  brains behind marriage equality but he also dedicated his entire career to the cause. In 1983, while at Harvard Law School he wrote a paper explaining how the LGBT community could achieve marriage equality. He only got a B on the paper back then but in the thirty years that followed, he changed the world.

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“The Freedom to Marry” has its world premier at the Frameline Film Festival   on June 25.

“OUT RUN”— An LGBTQ Political Party

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“OUT RUN”

An LGBTQ Political Party

Amos Lassen

The Philippines has the only LGBTQ political party in the world. What makes this fact so interesting is that the Roman Catholic church Wrong! It’s the Philippines, where the Roman Catholic Church rules society. There is, however, a “wary tolerance for “baklas” (gay men)” and transgender people—as long as they stay in their “accepted” places. The places are the entertainment world where there are transgender beauty pageants, beauty salons, where transwomen can do business and build community; and sex work. LGBTQ Filipinos by and large are subject to discrimination, extortion, forced separation, and hate crimes. The party system in the Philippines allows groups that are marginalized in society system in the Philippines allows marginalized groups to run for seats in 20 percent of the House of Representatives. In 2013, trans activist Bemz Benedito and the Ladlad (“Be true to your nature”) Party made a historic attempt to place three LGBTQ candidates in congressional seats. The platform contained filing an anti-discrimination Bill and setting up homes for elderly gay men who had been abandoned by their families. We see here the Philippines’ of-the-people political world. It is a place where beauty salons become campaign chapters and dubious party alliances are the norm.

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When the issue of same-sex marriage there was a division among the troops. Loss of confidence became bitter resolve when just a few weeks before the election, a transwoman was beaten to death for using a women’s restroom. Emmy-nominated Bay Area documentarians S. Leo Chiang and Johnny Symons directed as give us a look at international LGBTQ grassroots organizing and coalition building.

“OUT OF IRAQ”— Love in Wartime

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Out Of Iraq”

Love in Wartime

Amos Lassen

“Out of Iraq” is a documentary about a heartbreaking love story between an Iraqi soldier and an Iraqi military translator. We get the impression that it could end at any moment and end badly. Either of the two men could be killed simply because they are gay and love each other. We have heard of this time and again on the news— honor killings are a way of life in the Middle East. In many cases, family and neighborhoods take the law into their own hands and unmercifully kill any LGBT person they can catch. It takes a few moments to realize that this could very well happen to the guys we see in this film. Many of us may be aware that Israel has become the most tolerant and accepting country of homosexuals in the Middle East but I want you to now that it was not always like that. Things began to change in the late 80s and I, while living there, had been arrested many times simply because of my sexuality.

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The war in Iraq was at its height in 2004 when Ramadi was one of the most dangerous places in the world to be in.  This is where Nayyef Hrebrid (known as David for his own safety) worked as a translator with the US Ground Forces, and where he first caught saw Btoo, a soldier with the new Iraq Army. They were attracted to each other and were immediately drawn to one another. They spent as much time together as possible and did so platonically since both of them were terrified to reveal their sexuality. That is until one night Btoo finally had the courage to tell Nayyef that he loved him, and from that point on there was no turning back.

Some five years later, Nayyef’s safety was in danger because of his work with the US Forces and he was granted a Special Visa to go and live in the US. He accepted and moved to Seattle thinking that once he was there it would be easy to get one from Btoo as well. After his first Applications were rejected, there did not seem to be much hope, a friendly American Refugee Activist recommend that he desert the Army and flee to Lebanon.  It was not the safest place but now that his family was aware of his relationship with Nayyar, staying at home was very, very dangerous.

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Here began a separation that would last over four years and each single step of the frustrating process was filled with both danger and disappointment.   Btoo was illegally living in Lebanon and if he was caught without papers he would be immediately deported back home where death awaited him. Yet with the fear, the tension and the not knowing their love kept the two men strong. But do not worry—it all works out for them. They were able to survive this entire ordeal but there are many others who must hide who they are and even pay the ultimate price because of loving someone of the same sex.

Nayeff made local news in Seattle, Washington when he escaped his home country in 2009 and became a United States citizen. As a translator for American forces in Iraq, Hrebid’s job put his life in danger and collaborators with the military have been prime targets for anti-American forces and terrorist groups ever since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. His years of service made Nayeff an unquestionable candidate for refugee status and, eventually, U.S. citizenship. The same could not be said for his partner, Btoo, an Iraqi civilian who had to remain behind in Baghdad for years. Today, Iraqi refugees Nayeff and Btoo live together as spouses in Seattle, though it was a long and dangerous path for Btoo between his war-torn home and his future husband. He was on a harrowing, five-year journey that helped reshape United Nations refugee policy and stands as a prime example of the horrors that LGBT people still face in many parts of the world. Documentarian Eva Orner learned of Btoo’s story and set out to capture it in “Out of Iraq”, which is scheduled to debut on HBO and through other distributors this year (2016).

Btoo’s story doesn’t begin with Orner’s documentary, though. Rather, it begins with the efforts of refugee advocate and Universal Life Church minister Michael Failla. Dr. Failla has personally spearheaded the rescue of struggling refugees hailing from such places as Cambodia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, many of them gay men who faced death for their sexual identities in their home countries. Btoo’s family were shopkeepers in Baghdad and Btoo himself served in the Iraqi Armed Forces. When his family became aware of his sexual identity, Btoo had no choice but to desert the military and go to Lebanon.

We cannot allow ourselves to forget that in some parts of the world, including the most traditional corners of Iraq, homosexuality is answered with murder, often by members of a person’s own family. Btoo’s killers would have been his own brothers. Because these honor-killings are perpetrated by civilians and rarely talked about even in their own communities, the international community hears little about them. With this film, perhaps this message will reach a wider audience.

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Btoo’s escape into Lebanon was only the beginning of his journey. By law, he was only allowed to stay in Lebanon for thirty days, and at a steep price. With Failla’s financial assistance, Btoo achieved the mandatory thirty-day reservation at a Beirut hotel and the equivalent of one-thousand dollars cash on-hand. His process with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees took much longer than thirty days, though. Btoo lived and worked in Beirut from late 2010 until 2013 and did so in hiding as an illegal immigrant. He received support from advocates during this time, including members of the Universal Life Church, based out of Seattle, Washington. In order to even apply for refugee status with the UNHCR, an individual must go through an extensive interview process. Btoo was interviewed and indeed interrogated several times while in Beirut, often having to sneak through the chaotic streets to make his meetings. At that time, existential threat for homosexual identity was not considered a valid reason for refugee status, so Btoo’s application was postponed or rejected several times. On two occasions, Michael Failla flew to Beirut to be Btoo’s advocate in-person. On his second visit, he brought his own translator. This proved to be a policy-changing decision. Private translation revealed inaccuracies, biases, and other questionable elements of the UN translation record, which would ultimately get Btoo’s application for refugee status approved and would, at long last, set a precedence for sexual orientation as a valid reason for refugee designation.

While waiting for his UNHCR approval, Btoo escaped to Canada through Failla’s private advocacy organization, New Life. Then, in March of 2015, Btoo was allowed to move to the United States and reunite with the love of his life, Nayeff. They married that summer with the help of a presiding Universal Life Church minister.

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Nayeff and Btoo are still taking a great risk by allowing their names and likenesses to be used for “Out of Iraq” but they are strong and believe that the plight of LGBT people living in Iraq and other dangerous places needs to have a human face if change is come about. This is a very emotional film so be prepared with tissue—you not only will weep through it but afterwards as well as that is when you sense the difference between tears of worry and tears of joy.

“Out of Iraq” is a World of Wonder film produced by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Eva Orner and Chris McKim; co-Directed by Academy Award-winner Eva Orner (“Taxi to the Dark Side”) and Chris McKim.

“FROM TRAUMA TO ACTIVISM”— A Film You Do Not Want to Miss

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“From Trauma to Activism”

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The narratives in the film, “From Trauma to Activism” unpack our history with stories from audacious pathfinders and academics, gay liberationists and transgender militants, dykes and lesbian separatists, feminists and radical fairies, queers and queens. 

These trailblazers came out-of-the-closet: suffering familial estrangement and shunning; risking their livelihood; and chanced harm during hostile demonstrations. Determined to transform the world by living openly despite reprisals, they were committed to social change and making the planet a more just and safer place. They formulated a daring politics with insights about human existence; trans-and gender identity; and sexual orientation that has inspired generations of post-Stonewall Rebellion activists and change-agents; academics and historians; and artists, filmmakers, and writers. 

Trauma and activism appear to be in contradistinction—the former defined by elusivity and concealment, being hidden and out-of-sight; and the latter by action, out-in-the-open, in public. However, the evolution of activism for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) people begins with, and is inseparable from, psychological reclamation and regeneration.

After the film, Dansky will discuss saving our history through the project OUTSpoken: Oral History from LGBTQ Pioneers, conducting interviews from New York City to Portland; Durham to Los Angeles; from the rural communities of Columbia County, New York, to San Francisco; and globally via Skype in Bangkok, Buenos Aires, and Melbourne”. 


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“TWO SOFT THINGS, TWO HARD THINGS”— Colonialism, Christianity and Queer

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“Two Soft things, Two Hard Things”

Colonialism, Christianity and Queer

Amos Lassen

We do not really hear anything about queer Inuits. I am not sure why this is true but we know that there must be some. This is what we see in the new documentary “Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things”. The influence of the church and of capitalism has changed family structures and sexual dynamics in Nunavut and this dates back to the 1700’s. Before that , queer individuals would’ve been viewed as completely acceptable in the past however today many Inuit elders and youth look down on these gender and sexual nonconformists.

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We meet some of them here and it is not surprising that some talk about a sense of alienation. This is quite worrisome because Nunavut presently has a high suicide rate and experts believe those numbers represent more LGBT youth than are accounted for. However, we also learn that things are changing.

The territory of Nunavut was built upon decades of relocation, re-education, and Christianization of nomadic Inuit people. Colonization and shame have shadowed the community, hitting LGBTQ people especially hard, as the systematic destruction of native culture has driven the Inuit’s original complex, inclusive sense of sexual orientation and family structure underground. Directors Mark Kenneth Woods and Michael Yerxa trace colonization from the 1950s, through the a gradual thaw that has led to LGBTQ protections in the Nunavut human rights act in 2003. We see members of the LGBT community who bring life to the story here—gay Inuit adults and the youth; tribal elders reviving ancient inclusiveness. There are those who want the world to know what is going on there. As indigenous values and contemporary mores come together, a door opens for Inuit people to experience a continuing and exciting journey.

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This is the story of LGBTQ Inuit folks on their journey to acceptance as they struggle to grasp their identity and reclaim their roots amidst societal, religious and racist pressure in Nunavut. As they work to honor and celebrate who they are against the backdrop of the LGBTQ Pride celebration in Nunavut, the film documents it. The tone is established right from the beginning, with an elder who shares wisdom from the Inuit that speaks to the LGBTQ struggle. The film is, therefore, a haunting narrative of how LGBTQ rights have been shaped in Nunavut through the pervasive effects of colonialism and Christianity. We hear recollections about the devastating ways in which these structures were enforced upon the Inuit people and these are seen against the stark contrast of the harshness of the land and extreme weather. We go into the hearts and homes of those who courageously deal with the complexity of their identity every day. They tell their stories with a vulnerability that can only emerge from incredible strength. The film throws out the homophobic myths and stereotypes about “gay Eskimos” and replaces them with images of LGBTQ Inuit who not only survive but have fun doing so.

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The word “inuit” means “the people” in the Inuktitut language. It is commonly believed that homosexuality does not exist in Inuit society, but documentary filmmakers Mark Kenneth Woods and Michael Yerxa set out to prove this is not true. The title of the film comes from the Inuit word for homosexuals—the word for lesbians means “two soft things rubbing against each other” and the word for gay men means “two hard things rubbing against each other.”

When a rainbow flag was flown outside of the city hall in Iqaluit in 2014, a debate ensued in the Inuit community about whether or not homosexuality was a part of their society and if should be accepted.

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Pride picnics have been held in Iqaluit from 2000 to 2006, and a larger Pride event was held in 2014, yet the subject of homosexuality is still taboo among the Inuit people.

“CHECK IT”— The Only Documented Gay Gang in America

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“Check It”

The Only Documented Gay Gang in America

Amos Lassen

Just a few blocks from the White House on K Street in Washington D.C. is one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods yet it is there that a group of kids who have found family.  Washington has one of the highest reported rates of anti-gay hate crimes in America.  Because of poverty and misunderstanding many youths have been forced out of their homes and/or being disowned by their families.  Many have experienced violence just for being who they are.  A group of these kids began a gang, The Check It, designed to protect LGBT teens and whose members are there for each other.   Through acts of violence and intimidation, they have earned respect on the street and have expelled the stereotype that gay people are weak and passive.  Recognizing that these kids needed a role model and guidance, Community Outreach Counselor Ron Moten worked to provide better opportunities for some of them.  In the film, we see the daily struggles of these kids.  The directors, Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer, have been able to gain the trust of the subjects and are documenting them as they speak honestly about the realities of life on these streets, their fears, their hopes and dreams. We move past the violence and criminal activity and get to know the real person behind the protective façade.  These teens are compelling.

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There’s a great sense of hope in the film, that maybe their futures aren’t lost.  The kids are encouraged by several adults to look within themselves, find their inner strength and fight for the future they want.  They are trying to show these kids that they deserve better, they deserve more.  Getting out of their normally desperate situation encourages them to reach higher.

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It’s so easy to only see the negative aspects of gang culture, with the violence, crime, and addiction.  Being part of this film has been an invaluable experience for them   it has taught them self worth, self-respect, and desire for a better life.

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Now there are over 200 members of the gang and many are “armed and dangerous as well as fierce and fabulous”. Coming together has helped lessen their chances of various kinds of harm (from not only schoolmates and gangbangers but family members and prostitution johns), because a fearsome reputation rapidly arose around their willingness to fight.

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Aside from the young people, the documentary also introduces us to mentoring adults who try to give them a way out of the many dead ends they’ve faced in their community. The film follows Tray, Day Day, Star and Skittles, just four of the members of the gang, and their mentor, Ron “Mo” Moten, an ex-convict who works closely with the group.

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“What makes people violent has nothing to do with sexual preference; it’s about circumstances,” Moten says, “and right now there’s nobody dealing with that because people don’t want to associate with anything that’s violent or gay.”

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The Check It came into being in 2009 when a group of ninth graders from the most violent parts of the city decided to band together in retaliation against the bullying that they’d been subjected to because they are LGBT. Hope and motivation for a life away from gang violence came through an unusual outlet: fashion. The film shows Day Day, Tray, Star and Skittles as they work to produce a local fashion show and eventually travel to New York Fashion Week to work the shows backstage. A clothing line, Check It Enterprises, was launched afterwards; the unisex clothes are designed and made by Check It members and, for now, are available only online.  

Star is really focused and it’s the fashion aspect more than anything. That’s what most people in life need — they need something to motivate them, to make them want to go to the next level, or to see a way out to where they want to go and fashion became just that. It has grown from a routine interest into a lifeline for the Check It. After the first fashion show in 2013, strangers started calling and praising the members for being open with their story.

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The film moves between moments of inspiration and scenes that show the often tragic reality for black gay and transgender youth in D.C. In one scene, Tray is shown calling for an update on his reporting of a rape, to no avail; another moment shows Day Day visiting with his mother, who struggles with drug use.  

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Filmed between 2012 and 2014, the film is so much more than just being about hardship and strife. It’s about friends and explores what happens when passionate, creative people are finally given the opportunity to put their passion and creativity to use.

 

Trey says, “‘I don’t want you to be like me,’ you know? ‘You can look up to us, but don’t be us.’ I don’t want people to be like us. They don’t have to go out and form a group just to survive… I just want them to learn from our story… I just want them to know that there is a way out.”

“FILM HAWK”— Meeting Bob Hawk

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“Film Hawk”

Meeting Bob Hawk

Amos Lassen

I had never heard of Bob Hawk before seeing this film and I suspect that many of you can say the same. Now I know that he was a behind-the-scenes guy for many independent filmmakers

The name Bob Hawk may not be familiar beyond independent circles, but as an early champion of filmmakers like Kevin Smith, Edward Burns, Rob Epstein, Scott McGehee and David Siegel. He senses talent and gives good advice and this film introduces us to a man who did so much for so many. Directors JJ Garvine and Tai Parquet have rounded up numerous filmmakers to speak on his behalf while Hawk himself remains an elusive figure. Unfortunately, I think he is so unknown that many will overlook the film and choose something else to see.

The documentary opens with Kevin Smith tearfully sharing Hawk’s important and crucial role when he brought his film, “Clerks” to the Independent Feature Film Market at the Anjelica Film Center, where it played to 12 people — 10 from his camp and two others, one of whom was Hawk. Hawk was so impressed with the film that he brought it to important writers such as Village Voice critic Amy Taubin, New Directors/New Films chief Larry Kardish and Peter Broderick of Filmmaker magazine. Fate and history the took over. Smith names Hawk as the main person who helped him get ahead and other filmmakers will repeat this story with their films and the man who became a godfather of the indie movement.

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Hawk was lived in San Francisco in the ‘70s that was then a place where an openly gay man with artistic talents could live openly. He saw a five-hour cut of Epstein’s “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives” and offered pages of handwritten notes that helped cut the film to a little over two hours. When Epstein made “The Times of Harvey Milk” in 1984, Hawk predicted that it would win the Oscar for best documentary feature. Hawk later moved closer his East Coast home and he continued to consult filmmakers like Burns, who was trying do something with his “The Brothers McMullen”; McGehee and Siegel, who were working on their debut feature, “Suture”; and, much later, transgender director Kimberly Reed, who was struggling to tell her life’s story with “Prodigal Sons.”

We get to see a few scenes from Hawk’s life (his 75th birthday and a get-together with his straight brother, who was not always his biggest supporter). However, Garvine and Parquet often put Hawk into awkward staged conversations with some of the filmmakers who have benefitted from what he has to say. While Smith and Hawk have a nice rapport and their conversation is interesting but this is not the case all the way through. However there is something more serious than that— the directors just are not able to get close enough to their subject. Late in the film, they ask him what he has to say about this film and Hawk answers that they have enough film footage. The film never really understands its subject and we do not learn about Hawk as a human being or about his struggles with clinical depression, his financial problems, his current state of uncertainty. We hear about them late in the film but only in passing. For 40 years and often selflessly, Hawk has helped many aspiring filmmakers make their way to Sundance, the Oscars and other rungs up the ladder to success. When the documentary was made, Hawk was 75. We immediately sense that he had a childhood speech impediment. He was the son of a preacher who learned that the only time he could speak without a stutter was when he delivered lines in a play.

The focus of the documentary is on what Hawk has done for cinema. However, there are some little fun tidbits like However there visiting Divine’s grave in Baltimore, stories about engagement to a Southern belle cheerleader in college and of raunchy New York back them where Liza Minnelli was the only woman in attendance.

Toward the end, the film becomes more personal but there was so much that I wanted to know but did not get the chance to see.

“POLITICAL ANIMALS”— Four Women

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“POLITICAL ANIMALS”

Four Women

Amos Lassen

The 1994 election made California history. The first openly gay person, Sheila Kuehl, was elected to the California legislature who is now LA County Supervisor for the Third District which stretches from the ocean cities of Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice east to Los Feliz and through the whole San Fernando Valley to Pacoima and San Fernando.

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Jonah Markowitz’ and Tracy Wares’ new documentary tells the story of the first four openly gay Sacramento legislators, beginning with Sheila Kuehl and then Carole Migden, Jackie Goldberg and Christine Kehoe. These women are determined, focused and passionate lesbians who took the very personal cause of equal rights for the LGBTQ community into government.

.Each of the four has proven to be a shrewd political operator as they introduced bills piecemeal in order to stop discrimination a little at a time. The opposition was tough but they persisted and here we actually see the hostility mainly from the extreme right faction of the of the male dominated Republican Party. There same people would enter the Chamber holding their bibles.

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For those of us who are LGBT it is hard to understand why elected officials opposed bills that were aimed at making schools safer for LGBT children, or making it illegal for people to be fired for being gay.  We must remember that this was true just some fifteen years ago. It is even harder to understand that in such an enlightened and forward moving state like California that homosexuality was still be compared to necrophilia, pedophilia and even to bestiality. These people were quick to talk about something that most of them knew nothing about.

The four women profiled here had the courage of their convictions to be openly gay politicians at a time when this wasn’t done.  They had to become more than mere spokesmen for our community and often had to act as ambassadors from the LGBT community.

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Together Sheila Kuehl Carole Migden, Jackie Goldberg, and Christine Kehoe took the LGBT civil rights struggle from the streets to the state capitol. The film uses present day interviews with a wealth of news clips, photographs, and archival footage to tell us about these four pioneering women. Short bios of each politician reveal backgrounds that include lesbian separatism, Berkeley’s free speech movement, and even a role on the 1960s television show “Dobie Gillis”.

The film traces the passage of domestic partnership legislation and how it paved the way for marriage equality, but the real story is the way these out and proud politicians banded together and slowly transformed the state assembly itself. Initially they had to deal with fear, indifference, and unbelievable homophobia but they gradually won acceptance and support from an expanding group of straight allies. This is a film you do not want to miss.