Category Archives: GLBT documentary

“THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ”— Portrait of a Brilliant Mind

internets own boy poster

“The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz”

Portrait of a Brilliant Mind

Amos Lassen

Aaron Swartz was a brilliant guy—a programming prodigy and an information activist. He helped to develop the basic Internet protocol RSS and he was a co-founder of Reddit. He was all over the Internet but it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that found him involved in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. His story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This documentary is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.

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He helped shape the digital landscape we all use today. Chronicling his pioneering efforts crusading for open access and free speech and the resulting legal nightmare and tragedy that ensued, “The Internet’s Own Boy” is a dynamic and moving portrait of a brilliant tech millionaire who renounced the values of Silicon Valley startup culture and used technology to tirelessly fight for social justice, no matter what the cost.

Gabriella Coleman, a cultural anthropologist, tells us that, “He contributed through his technical abilities, and yet it was not simply a technical matter to him.”

Technically Brian Knappenberger’s film is nothing special—he relies on a wide range of talking heads and Swartz’s old interviews via TV and web chats meshed with vintage photographs and archival footage, and its central character’s brief, turbulent, and radical existence is charted in concise chronological order. However, the film is far from a technical matter, fiercely promoting Swartz’s legacy and challenging us with the same questions its central subject was compelled to ask.

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Knappenberger follows Swartz”s from an inquisitive childhood to a technologically cognizant adolescence that remarkably found him helping to create RSS feeds and Creative Commons, two web-based conceptions specifically focusing on the Internet for its reservoir of knowledge. It was his quest for knowledge is that fuels the opinion that the World Wide Web should be a repository of information freely open to everyone. Yet, this also triggers his abruptly tragic downfall, prompting him to pirate research documents kept secured from ordinary citizens behind pay walls that would seem to violate privacy law. And while the illegality of his actions is made clear, the film also harshly critiques the punitive government investigation as merely making an “example” of him.

 We are well aware of Knappenberger’s sympathy toward Swartz so consequently, the film has no interest in offering counterpoints to its own argument, though, to be fair, we’re told that most Swartz dissenters declined to be interviewed. And for all the justifiable anger his plight engenders, the primary combatant still comes through at a remove, less a fully formed person than a pariah, seeing him more for what he did than who he was, unable to discern the precise emotional entanglements that might have brought about his death. Knappenberger is less interested in what precisely led to his death than what his death meant. This isn’t investigative journalism, but urgent advocacy filmmaking. Swartz’s mantra declared that “everything you learn is provisional,” suggesting one’s belief system can be remodeled with new information. The film commiserates a loss, but also effectively appeals for enlightenment, asking us to hear and consider what Swartz championed, which is a worthy testament to this young man’s legacy.

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 Swartz was a charming and selfless information prodigy that strived to use his talent to make this a freer and better world for which he ended up paying for with his life. Aaron Swartz was born in Chicago, the middle son, of successful middle-class Jewish parents. Inquisitive from birth, he taught himself to read by the age of three and by the time he reached high school he had trouble with his  teachers because he felt that they taught him less than what he could learn from a book in “about an hour”. At 13 he won a competition for young people who created non-commercial websites for which the prize included a trip to M.I.T.  From then on, there was no looking back for him.

 He then played a major part in the development of the basic Internet protocol RSS and also co-founded Reddit which became the most popular social news website in the world. His work brought fame in the online communities and also wealth (when Reddit was sold) but this affable young man couldn’t have been less interested in either. What did excite him was social justice and political organizing that focused on working to free up inaccessible information online that he believed belonged in the public domain and should be available to all without charge.   It was what would prove to be his undoing in time.

 Without Swartz’s involvement it is most unlikely that the Stop Online Piracy Act would have been defeated in Congress, but when he set about copying almost 5 million academic articles from JSTOR (Journal Storage) Database at M.I.T. and it was here that events did not go his way. Swartz maintained that since these articles had been financed from public funds they should be freely available. When he was caught, JSTOR chose not press any charges but the Federal Government did and very aggressively pursued Swartz and indicted him with a total of 13 felonies. To its shame, M.I.T. just stood on sidelines and did nothing.

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 The beauty of this wonderful documentary of this extraordinary young man is that the director makes a concerted effort to show not only why the online community was in awe of his seemingly unlimited talent, but by including his very supportive and proud family and friends. In this way, he showed what an exceptionally nice person Swartz was too. This very unassuming man was magnanimous and both reserved and quiet but he seemed to blossom as more people called on him to help. He was a passionate thinker who used the same logical approach he employed when programming also in how tackled any social injustice he came across.

Why he took his own life is never really explained in the movie, but what is very clear from listening to all the evidence is that was a wasted life cut short. However his memory just doesn’t live on with his loved ones, and with the online community who are in awe of all his inventions and achievements, but also last year in Congress a Bill was introduced to finally reform the ambiguous and outdated Anti-Hacking Law that the Government used so mercilessly against him. The Bill is called Aaron’s Law, as well it should be.

Even if hackers like  Swartz are still a problem for us to reconcile in real life, “maybe it is in the movies, with their capacity to empathize with the outré, their ability to present difficult, morally prismatic antiheroes, that we can properly come to terms with them”. Today’s world has been shaped by complex agents of change like  Assange and Snowden and  we may need movies to help us comprehend our shades of gray.

“MONDO HOMO”— French Gay Porn In the ‘70s

mondo better poster

“MONDO HOMO”

French Gay Porn In the ‘70s

Amos Lassen

Try to remember back to the 1970s when most of the gay porn available to us was imported from France; when there were no condoms and no shaved trimmed pubes. “Mondo Homo” is a documentary filled with nostalgia and takes us back to some wonderfully artistic films and some very filthy ones. Obviously they were made by horny directors who take a simple visit to the doctor and make it wildly erotic.

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We saw fantasies of all sorts starring men of all nationalities, sizes and colors. It was the imaginations of the filmmakers that made porn what it was and now these same people reflect on their productions and what was then known as underground cinema. The productions were crude and carried tiles such as “Young Prey for Bad Boys” and “Hand Balling” (no more discreet than say “Shaving Ryan’s Privates” or “Forrest Rump”). And we the viewers where so glad to see our sexuality on the big screen. The porn provocateurs took their cues from the masters of the “Nouvelle Vague” as they shot outdoors and on locations. They adheres to the motto of La Belle France, “liberty, equality, and fraternity” and indeed help to kick off the gay liberation movement while introducing audiences to water sports, facials, and fisting (in a scene rejected by censors as “an affront to human decency”). 
This is both  a fascinating look back at an important chapter in gay porn history and a total turn-on with its archival clips of “orgiastic writhing among big bears, leather daddies, and tender hooligans”.

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Between 1975 and 1983 a new kind of film could be seen in French cinema— homegrown gay pornography. They were essentially the work of three production companies: Les films de La Troika (Norbert Terry), AMT Productions (Anne-Marie Tensi) and Les Films du Vertbois (principally Jacques Scandelari). The genre met an untimely end with the advent of video, the last being made in 1983 ‘Mon ami, mon amour (My friend, my lover)’. The films were shot in 16mm and most of them were passed and given certificates by the CNC (National Cinema Centre). They were screened in a small number of Parisian cinemas dedicated to gay pornographic film—- Le Dragon, La Marotte and Le Hollywood Boulevard as well as several in the provinces. Sexy, sexual and oftentimes very explicit, “Mondo Homo” shows the progression of pornography as it builds from soft-core to fetish. An interesting history lesson here is told by many men who are still around to tell us how it was.  For people into history, the filmmakers uncovered a lot of early scenes from film archives and this certainly is a great way to see some of the roots of pornography, much of which crossed over to the United States.

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“Mondo Homo” is the result of five years of painstaking research and investigation. It features extensive interviews with the directors and actors illustrated by numerous extracts from their films. This is an opportunity to discover the hitherto forgotten yet memorable story of the pioneers of French gay cinema.

mondo homo poster

“LETTER TO ANITA”— A New Documentary

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“LETTER TO ANITA”

A New Documentary

Amos Lassen

New on the festival circuit is the documentary by Andrea Meyerson, “Letter to Anita”. It is a look at the painful and horrible legacy left by hate-monger Anita Bryant. Some of you who were around will remember it all too well. In the 1970’s she led virulent anti-gay campaign. Now Meredith Baxter narrates 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. This injustice propelled Ronni into a life of LGBT activism.

Anita Bryant is a former Miss America pageant contestant and the spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission at the end of the 70s and it was then that she began her campaign of hate. It was named “Save Our Children” and was a highly visible anti-gay campaign. Bryant was instrumental in getting Dade County to overturn an ordinance that outlawed discrimination against gays and then she went on to set off a broader wave of anti-gay sentiment nationwide. Because of her and her efforts, gay and lesbian parents across the country faced new legal difficulties and saw their families torn apart.

Ronni Sanlo was caught in the middle. She had lived her life with a secret that she hid from everyone and thereby making her parents happy by getting married and having children. But then she began to accept herself, asked her husband for a divorce and he countered using the new anti-gay laws and denied Ronni the custody of her son and daughter.

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There was a time when she was allowed short visits with her children, but eventually those visits were stopped altogether and Ronni was devastated. This is the story of how Ronni turned her lowest moment into a way to become an activist for the LGBT and her community. She began to fight for and lesbian rights and for people with HIV/AIDS at a time when this was just not done in America. She became head of the Florida Gay Civil Rights Task Force and she fought unjust legislation. Later, she was an AIDS surveillance officer for the state of Florida and was on the front lines of helping AIDS sufferers. As if that is not enough, she went to school and earned a doctorate and then took up a new goal in becoming a pioneer of gay and lesbian outreach on college campuses, starting with the University of Michigan.

She was still unable to see her children and while she was doing so much good for others, she was filled with anger, resentment and depression. She did not even know where her children were. Anita Bryant had done so much damage yet she professed to be a Christian woman as she destroyed the lives of others.

In the film we see Ronni’s story and the quest for equal rights for gay people. I remember this period in our history all to well and it sickens me to think about it but by thinking about it we can make sure that it will never happen again. We do learn what happened to Ronni’s children and to Anita Bryant’s own family as well as what happened to Ronni. Meyerson makes use of archival footage and interviews with Ronni, her son and an on-camera interview with Robert Green, Anita Bryant’s son.

“’Letter to Anita’ paints a riveting portrait of what anti-gay discrimination can do to families—and how its destructive power can ultimately backfire on itself”.

The clip is not from the film but it shows who Anita Bryant was:

“AN HONEST LIAR”— James “The Amazing” Randi

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“An Honest Liar”  

James “The Amazing” Randi

Amos Lassen

James “The Amazing” Randi is a world famous magician, escape artist and enemy of deception (and I had never heard of him before seeing this documentary). Here we see something about Randi’s intricate investigations that exposed psychics, faith healers, and con artists with quasi-religious fervor. At the age of 81, Randi came out of the closet and now his film is making the festival circuit. Randi has created fictional characters, fake psychics, and even turned his partner of 25 years, the artist Jose Alvarez, into a sham guru named Carlos.  Then there is a shocking revelation in his personal and we are not sure if Randi is the deceiver or the deceived.

I watched this film knowing of Randi only from it but by the time it was over, I felt that we had been friends for years. The film begins with Randi telling us how he got into magic—that he left home and began trying some of Houdini’s tricks.

So who is this Randi? He is an oxymoron and describes himself as a man who does a magic trick, admitting that it clearly isn’t real. He is honest about his deception. What started as a career deceiving audiences quickly turned him to revealing the frauds of the world. I was unfamiliar with a lot of the stories that Randi debunked at the beginning, but I did begin to recognize some of the more recent ones. Soon I found myself fascinated by what I was watching. Randi is a very interesting person and we learn some fascinating facts about him. At times, the film is very candid. We see, or think we see, a very humble and honest man and we are let into a world that most of us know nothing about.

Jason Weinstein directed this and as I watched I began to consider the meaning of an honest liar. We are told that what makes an honest liar is the difference between using deception to conceal the truth—or reveal the truth. With Randi we see that it is much easier to convince people of what they want to believe than it is to convince them of what is factually correct. This film is totally believable and shows us the cards many magicians have up their sleeves. Randi explains how to expose certain aspects of hocus pocus as malarkey and he remains a firm advocate for the escapist enchantment of magic. The film though draws the line between entertainment and exploitation.

We see how he harnessed his own passion for magic into exposing those who abused the power of the imagination for a confidence game. He tells how he could tell who were shady healers, sinful preachers, and false prophets. Some of his tactics are compelling, while others—including an elaborate infiltration of a university study on psychic powers—receive understandable charges of unethical practice. The film remains objective by framing Randi’s story “within the elaborate deception that marks his own life and consequently shows the innate fallibility that lies within each human being”. We are left doubting the power of these so-called mystics and faith healers.

Randi has made his life’s mission to “debunk harmful deception, including faith healers and mentalists that were studied by prestigious universities like Stanford”.  The story is told by archival film footage, taking heads and some cinema verite. We learn of Randi’s personal life and are told that he married his longtime partner in 2013 at the age of 85. This is not just a portrait of Randi but also a detective story in the way Randi challenges those who are not real and instead become distractions. Randi lives by the motto that  “It’s okay to fool people,” but only for amusement. He is an outspoken critic of those that use the power of deception for personal gain, he tells an audience in 2011, “Magicians are the most honest people in the world. They tell you they’re going to fool you, and they do.” This is the story of a man who is “paradoxically a likable and honest liar out to set the record straight”.

“BROKEN HEART LAND”— With a Gunshot to the Head

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“BROKEN HEART LAND”

 With a Gunshot to the Head

Amos Lassen

On early fall afternoon in 2010, Zach Harrington, a gay teen, killed himself with a shot in the head on his parent’s ranch in Norman Oklahoma. I can read that sentence over and over and over again and not make any sense of it. I just do not understand what killing ourselves is all about. Just one week earlier, Zach had been to a local city council meeting to support a proposal for LGBY History month in his town which is located in the Bible belt. As can be expected in the Bible-belt, when the floor was opened to discussion there were those community members who said some highly controversial things and went as far as to equate being gay with the spread of disease like HIV and AIDS.

Zack’s parents are conservative Republicans and military veterans and they are filled with grief. Their town is divided bitterly about homosexuality and now they are forced to reconcile their own social and political beliefs with the death of their son.

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They are determined to understand Zack and when they find his private diary, they discover a portrait of their son as a boy in crisis. “Ultimately, they discover a chilling secret that Zack kept hidden for almost two years, which leads them to some painful conclusions about their son’s life and death”.

An outspoken conservative decides to run for City Council and this is the impetus they needed to join a politically active group, “MOMS: Mothers of Many” which is a bit similar to PFLAG in membership—it is composed mainly of local mothers of LGBTQ youth.

As the election grew nigh, Zack’s family, people who had once been private and politically conservative came out of that closet and left private denial behind and came out climatically to a very public acceptance of their son’s legacy. From the tragedy of losing a son, they moved to advocacy. With Zack’s suicide, they were shocked and distraught. We must keep in mind that Norman, Oklahoma is the site of the University of Oklahoma and because it is a college town, it is a bit more liberal than other Oklahoma sites. It was shocking and amazing to see that at that city council meeting there were many people supporting both sides of the argument and there was a great deal of opposition to allow the town to celebrate LGBT History month.

In this beautiful film directed by brother and sister team Jeremy and Randy Stulberg and produced by Randy’s partner Eric Juhola, we do not learn if it was that council meeting that drove Zack over the edge but we do see that his parents suffered and are suffering greatly especially when they discovered through the diary that Zack was keeping a terrible secret from them and that was that he had known for more than a year that he was HIV-positive. He had only recently shared this with friends and he certainly knew his status at the meeting where uninformed citizens gave incorrect and erroneous statements about HIV/AIDS.

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Nancy, Zack’s mother recently sat down to write about the details and struggles she faced when she tried to get members of their community involved and she tells  “how certain obstacles are detrimental to spreading awareness and understanding about important LGBT issues like HIV/AIDS awareness, comprehensive sex education, and LGBT rights, especially in America’s heartland”.  

It took a tragedy and a secret for the Harrington’s to unravel the mystery behind their son’s death. This caused them to question their own sense of civic responsibility “as they undergo a harrowing transformation from private citizens to public defenders of their son’s legacy”.

Zack had had no doctor and he got his AIDS medication on the street. Oklahoma bans talk of homosexuality in sex education classes. The religious right dictates public health measures and we go back to that old “Silence=Death”. We must remember that with all the LGBT community has gained in the last few years, there are still places in this country where it makes no difference. None of us are free until all of us are free.

“THE FAMOUS JOE PROJECT”— Recording a Life

the famous joe project“The Famous Joe Project”

Recording a Life

Amos Lassen

Joe is busy dropping out of college and coming out. Her decides to record his everyday activities on a hand-held mini-video and then post the clips on the Internet. But soon after he begins this project, he meets Jesus, a narcissistic hustler drawn to the idea of constantly being on camera.

He and Jesus move to LA (where else?) and as his life spirals out of control, Joe seems unable to make sense of his own actions, yet he can’t stop filming.

It is almost like a reality show; “The Famous Joe Project” follows Joe in and out of issues with friends, money, where he is going to live, being rolled, beaten, trying to take his life, etc. Most of the “actors & actresses” were very convincing as to their relationship to Joe, some were disgusting, some nice and friendly. Joe seemed to be this innocent guy who was trusting and easily taken advantage. The script was right on in so many circumstances and as in so many reality shows we’ve had your villains and our good guys, and they were all convincing in their roles. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siJWIZLvkuA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siJWIZLvkuA

“THE CASE AGAINST 8″— At the Supreme Court

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“The Case Against 8”

 At the Supreme Court

Amos Lassen

In May 2008, the State of California allowed same-sex marriages to take place but then the right was quickly withdrawn in November with the passage of Proposition 8. Prop 8 (as it’s more widely known) was a state constitutional amendment that was championed by opponents of same-sex marriages to ban these marriages, thus stripping these couples of their rights (the same rights that heterosexual couples can enjoy, such as social security, pension and benefits). Two separate couples who were denied their marriage licenses then sued their local county clerks offices and set in motion events that would become one of the greatest victories for human rights America has ever seen.

Ben Cotner and Ryan White, two filmmakers covered these events during the five years that they took place and this movie is the result of that. Here they document the struggles, the snags in the road and the achievements of the two couples and of the legal team as well (Ted Olsen and David Boies).

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The film opens with a lot of legal talk by the two top American lawyers and then goes on to become one of the most fascinating and important documentaries we have. While our community was euphoric about the election of Barak Obama as president it was also disheartened when we learned that same night that voters in California had passed Proposition 8, albeit by a slim majority. Overnight they had taken away the legal right of same-sex marriages in the State. It was a bitter blow for those still wanting to marry and it created sheer confusion and dismay for the 18000 couples that had wed in the past few months. Almost right away the talk of preparing a legal challenge in the federal courts took place but it did not happen until someone came up with the idea of using Ted Olsen in that fight. Olsen did not seem to be a likely choice— he was not only a prominent Republican who had been the US Solicitor General but more famously had been the chief advocate in the US Supreme Court in Bush vs. Gore which resulted in George W. snatching the Presidency from Al Gore who had won the popular vote.  There was a great deal of opposition to Olsen from many sections of the gay community who thought he was a ‘mole’ planted by the Right wing, and also many in the Republican considered him a traitor to their cause.

Olsen did not waste time in showing his sincerity for the overturn of Prop 8. He persuaded David Boies, a prominent Democratic lawyer who had been his opposition when he was Al Gore’s lawyer, to be his co-counsel. The two not only had a great deal of respect for each other, but they brought different skills to the case and made an invincible team.

 Olsen explained the reasoning for his own stance very clearly in the film. “Marriage, he said, is a conservative value. It’s two people who love one another and want to live together in a stable relationship, to become part of a family and part of neighborhood and our economy. We should want people to come together in marriage.” It was one of the many times in this riveting documentary that Olsen quietly demonstrated what an outstanding humanitarian he really is.

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 Chad Griffin and the leadership of American Foundation of Equal Rights (AFER) mounted the legal challenge. What we see here is not just the determination and commitment of the legal team but we also realize just much gay activism has changed. Griffin’s team of lawyers and the lead counsels mounted the whole campaign with such sheer professionalism, micro-managing every minute detail that made for an impressive compelling argument.  The strategy was to focus on the very obvious facts of the matter with the reality that this was about a basic human right. The opposition had huge funding but it relied on hotheaded rhetoric and their own personal opinions steeped in bigotry and hate with little regard for the proven facts.

Boies personally supervised the taking of depositions from all the expert witnesses the opposition put forward and he was so relentless that all but one withdrew before the first trial. David Blankenhorn, the one who remained, was the cause of some humor when the Team uncovered that aside from the book that he written on marriage, his only other qualification was his Masters Degree on Victorian Cabinet making.  When he was being cross-examined by Boies on the witness stand he. This was the beginning of the collapse of the Opposition’s case.

 AFER’s search to find the perfect Plaintiffs on whose behalf the Law would be challenged was impressive.  More so that the two couples who were selected were four of the most self-effacing brave individuals who were willing to step out of their comfort zones and allow every facet of their lives to be examined in minute detail.  They were to be in the public gaze for the next 5 years. 

 Kris Perry and Sandy Steir had married in 2004 and had four sons, whereas Jeffrey Zamillo and Paul Katami had been together for 6 years and wanted to marry before they started a family.  They allowed the filmmakers to record even the very painful experiences of highly personal questioning that they faced when they engaged with Olsen on practice runs. This endeared them even more to us all. 

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 The Federal Trial before Judge Walker resulting in Prop 8 being struck down, and the subsequent Appeal by the Opposition that failed leading to the whole Case winding up in the US Supreme Court was covered extensively in the media. Here we see what went on behind the scenes and we get a very highly personal look at some of the crucial and personal highlights that made this struggle seem even more poignant. When the victorious four Plaintiffs are finally on the steps of the Supreme Court after the Justices struck D.O.M.A. down, Chad Griffin passes them his cellphone. Barak Obama was on the line from Air Force One giving his congratulations.

Later we see Katami and Zamillo at Los Angeles City Hall where they are about to be married by the Mayor himself.  It is the first day that same-sex is legal again in California but the Clerk refuses to give them a License as she claims she has not been officially notified.  The ACER lawyer accompanying the men makes a quick call and then passes the phone to the Clerk’ s Supervisor. On the line is Kamala Harris, California’s Attorney General who orders him to issue the license immediately.

Cotner and white approached AFER about making this film even though no one had any idea how the legal action would turn out. They were given unprecedented access and were there filming every single step of the five year battle. They spent endless emotional days and sleepless nights with the entire team and the Plaintiffs and they produced a remarkable concise and spellbinding account that covered this historic turning point in a style it so richly deserved. “It perfectly captured the sheer energy of all the people who put their own lives on hold and gave this fight their all to enable gay men and women should be accorded this basic human right and with such dignity”.

The focus here is on the effects of the lawsuit on the handpicked plaintiffs, bringing a sense of purpose that edifies the whole experience. Witnessing the acceptance of their parents and children shows how far society has come from an age where marriage was perceived as one-man, one-woman. By drawing attention towards what this lawsuit means to those involved, it just shows that there is something worth fighting for.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_l8rFk1cte0 

“TWO: THE STORY OF ROMAN AND NYRO”— Twin Sons

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“Two: The Story of Roman & Nyro”

Twin Sons

Amos Lassen

Songwriter Desmond Child and his lifelong partner, Curtis Shaw went on a journey to create a new modern family. This film documents that journey. They met and connected with Angela Whittaker, the woman who would carry their twin sons, Roman and Nyro, into the world.  We are with them from preconception through the boys’ first 10 years in this personal and powerful story of these unique individuals whose lives become inextricably woven together in magical and unexpected ways. “Two” ‘is testament to the universal power and ultimate triumph of love – that it is love that makes a family, affirming modern families may be modern in their making, but timelessly human at their core’.

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Roman & Nyro  are the children of musician and songwriter Desmond Child  and Curtis Shaw. Child wrote such songs as Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca”. He and Shaw have been together for 24 years.

“Child and Shaw define their homosexual relationship on heterosexual terms, with Shaw repeatedly referred to as the boys’ “mother.” They and the twins’ biological mother, Angela Whittaker, allegedly arrived at their arrangement via dream visions while on a sojourn to India. They never contemplate the ethical and moral implications of surrogacy, nor articulate the personal significance of parenthood”.

Adoption apparently wasn’t even under consideration before the couple resorted to the presumably costly surrogacy, and the subject of gay adoption rights most certainly isn’t on the agenda of this one-way dialogue.

Child says that this film “is as close to home as it gets”. He and Shaw decided at one point that it was time to start a family. They did the research and found out that they could have our own biological children.  Child states, “When people say that marriage rights should be denied because gay people can’t procreate, that’s not true.” He says that this film puts their story on display for others to see – and possibly gain hope from. “What we did, was to document from the beginning, the way we created our family. At first, we were doing it so we could show other gay couples that it is possible, and how we did it. Then, it became a much bigger movie – because it has been twelve years in the making. Our little embryos are now talking and speaking for themselves. They have turned out to be great kids and very articulate.”

We get the film at an important time in history; a time “when hearts and minds are fractured and debate rages over equality,” says Heather Winters, director of TWO. “I’m honored that Desmond and Curtis trusted me to tell their story and invited me into their lives in such an intimate and poignant way.” Child adds “I think that we are at a turning point in America. Right now, we are the last group that doesn’t have full human rights – the rights of citizenship. We work jobs, pay our taxes, and raise our families. It’s time that people get over whatever their problems are with us, and embrace them in the same way that people got over a black man and a white women marrying. That took a long time. It’s important for all Americans to understand that their own rights are protected by protecting our rights. Maybe somewhere along the way, some group will decide ‘We don’t like that group anymore, so we think we will stop them from voting or having rights, or this and that. That’s tyranny – not what America is all about.”

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Child says that in authorizing such a personal film about their family was so that others would understand. Roman and Nyro Child were born May 8, 2002, in Miami Beach. Child (called “Daddy”) and Shaw (“Papa”) decided to raise the boys in Tennessee — ”the belt buckle of the Bible Belt,” Shaw said.

“He’s made the sacrifice to let us be where we want to be,” Shaw says of Child. “I prefer Nashville to anywhere else we’ve lived. The kids do, too. It’s easier, people are nice. If I’m less stressed out, things run more smoothly.”

The family lives on “eight acres we’ve collected over the years,” Shaw said. “The kids share a room, they’re in the same class at school and the same soccer team. Both take guitar and piano lessons, and Spanish lessons.”

The dads and their sons remain close to Whittaker and her mother. “We believe we’re part of the same family,” Shaw said. From the start, Child, Shaw and Whittaker documented their journey on video. These “home movies” became the basis for the documentary.

Roman thinks the film is “pretty cool” and so is its message: “Everybody has rights. They should just be inspired by this movie. People say gay parents can’t have children and we proved them wrong.”

“EYE ON THE GUY: ALAN B. STONE AND THE AGE OF BEEFCAKE”—- A Beefcake Documentary

eye on the guy

“Eye on the Guy: Alan B. Stone and the Age of Beefcake”

A Beefcake Documentary

Amos Lassen

Directors Philip Lewis and Jean-François Monette bring us a new documentary about a pioneering photographer of man’s physique. Alan B. Stone is featured in this short comprehensive film. Using vintage footage, old pictures, and varied interviews. Beginning in his teenage years, Stone suffered from excruciatingly painful arthritis but nevertheless went on to become a master of homo-erotic photography while remaining in many ways a common suburban dweller. He was in love with his city of Montreal, perhaps his third biggest love after photography and his male models. We see this in his work.

He quietly revolted against the moral conventions of post WWII Canada, exposing the beauty of thousands of body builders, fishermen, construction workers, cowboys, and the like, at a time when extreme discretion was required. His “muscle” magazines of the 50s and 60s gave way to the openly porn gay that soon became very popular among gay men.

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The film explores the little-known world of Montreal’s physique photography scene – a distinct gay subculture Operating under the social radar of post-war Canada, Stone produced thousands of images of men – from Montreal bodybuilders to Pacific coast fishermen, from rodeo cowboys to the construction workers who built Expo 67.

Like his American contemporary, physique photographer Bob Mizer, Alan B. Stone was a cultural pioneer. Before the first wave of gay liberation, and long before Calvin Klein’s poster boys marched into public view, Stone was taking hundreds of erotic photos of men and running an international mail-order business from his Montreal basement.

The film shows an introduction to the physique magazine development, the hidden gay expression of sexuality during that time, and the art in Stone is photography”.  In order that others might enjoy his work, Stone ran a thriving subscription service from the basement of his aunt’s home in Montreal selling pictures to repressed gay guys everywhere. These ‘beefcake’ pictures were the porn of that time before Playgirl, et al came into being. Interestingly, it was only when Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau declared in 1967 that the government would no longer have a role in the bedrooms of Canadians that the full frontal porn have today took off.

Montreal had been a center for male-physique photography in the ’50s and ’60s. Aside from the male-physique photography, Stone captured a broad spectrum of other subjects in his work. Stone also did extensive travel and landscape photography. Stone was a true pioneer in his field and added a great deal to the art of photography in Canada and internationally.

“CAUGHT INSIDE”–– Looking at the Taboo of Being a Gay Surfer

 

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    “Caught Inside”

  • Short Documentary – Looking at the taboo of being a gay surfer

  • What’s it like to be in the ‘manly’ world of surfing, but to be gay? Despite the stereotype of it surfing being filled with chilled out dude, the short documentary Caught Inside suggests it’s still a place where homosexuality is rarely spoken about.

     

    The seven-minute doc follows ‘ three gay surfers who have all recently come out in a sub-culture where they say homosexuality is still a taboo.’It’s an interesting subject and one that should be more fully explored in the upcoming Out In The Lineup, which completed a successful Kickstarter campaign at the end of last year. That doc follows two gay surfers as they travel the world finding the best waves.

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