Category Archives: GLBT documentary

“THE SALT MINES”— Three Latina Transwomen

the salt mines

“THE SALT MINES”

Three Latina Transwomen

Amos Lassen

“The Salt Mines” looks at the lives of Sara, Gigi and Giovanna, three Latina transwomen who for years have lived on the streets of Manhattan supporting their drug addictions through prostitution. They made their temporary home inside broken garbage trucks that the Sanitation Department keeps next to the salt deposits used in the winter to melt the snow. The place is known as The Salt Mines and it has a diverse population from the homeless community. The three friends talk about their sexual identity, their past and their dreams. We follow their daily lives day and night until the place is closed and sealed by the city, forcing everyone to disperse. The film was directed by Carlos Aparicio & Susana Aikin.

“HUNTED: THE WAR AGAINST GAYS IN RUSSIA”— Premiering October 6 on HBO

“HUNTED: THE WAR AGAINST GAYS IN RUSSIA”

 A STARTLING EXPOSE OF ANTI GAY VIOLENCE, DEBUTS OCT. 6 ON HBO

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 In modern-day Russia, where it is estimated that just 1% of the LGBT population lives completely openly, a recent anti-gay amendment to a “propaganda” law has triggered a rising number of assaults on gay men and women by vigilantes who, more often than not, go unpunished for their crimes.

Directed by Ben Steele, the startling expose HUNTED: THE WAR AGAINST GAYS IN RUSSIA looks at this climate of hostility when it debuts MONDAY, OCT. 6 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.  Matt Bomer (Emmy® nominee for HBO’s “The Normal Heart”) narrates.

Other HBO playdates: Oct. 6 (3:30 a.m.), 9 (2:50 a.m.) and 14 (12:20 a.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Oct. 12 (1:15 p.m., 2:45 a.m.), 16 (8:00 p.m., 1:30 a.m.) and 22 (1:00 p.m., 11:00 p.m.)           

Homosexuality was legalized in Russia 21 years ago, but gay people in the country have yet to win mainstream acceptance. In fact, attitudes in Russia appear to be moving backwards. With jobs and relationships at risk if their sexual orientation is exposed, most gay Russians remain closeted. As one gay man who lost sight in one eye during a recent unprovoked attack says ruefully, “Hunting season is open…and we are the hunted.”
           
HUNTED: THE WAR AGAINST GAYS IN RUSSIA features disturbing insider footage of homophobic Russians who, in the name of morality or religion, beat and torment gay people, posting graphic videos of their encounters online with few or no legal repercussions. These vigilantes see homosexuality as related to pedophilia, stating publicly that their justification for violence is protecting Russia’s children.
           
Since members of the gay community are afraid to live openly in Russia, groups like Occupy Pedophilia – whose members inaccurately claim that sexual abuse of children is most often committed by homosexuals – have been looking to root them out via the Internet. Posing as interested suitors, anti-gay activists “bait” unsuspecting men and women to rendezvous at apartments or public places, then harass, beat and humiliate victims, often urinating on them. Recordings of these encounters, along with forced admissions of homosexuality, are posted on the internet to “out” the victim and make his or her life “a living hell.”

Disturbing footage of a man’s harassment at the hands of a St. Petersburg vigilante branch, led by a woman named Katya, makes it clear that victims can do little to bring their tormenters to justice. Police rarely investigate such crimes, and there is no such thing as a gay hate crime in Russia. Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church, which serves as a moral compass to millions of followers, condemns homosexuality. 

Gay parents live in fear that the government will take steps to strengthen current laws and grant authorities the power to take away their children. Pro-gay activists are hindered by ordinances blocking them from mentioning homosexuality on picket signs or assembling in groups. Even straight sympathizers have found themselves and their livelihoods in jeopardy; Yekaterina, a teacher, says the new laws have triggered “a witch hunt.” In a country where the government and President Vladimir Putin have embraced an anti-gay stance, the feeling is that “the anti-gay forces are gaining momentum – and no one knows just how far the authorities will go.

British filmmaker Ben Steele has worked on an eclectic mix of documentaries over the past ten years, including “The Trouble with Working Women,” “Remembering Mum” and “Posh and Posher.”

HUNTED: THE WAR AGAINST GAYS IN RUSSIA is a presentation of HBO Documentary Films; filmed, written & directed by Ben Steele; narrated by Matt Bomer; executive producers, Karen Edwards and Fiona Stourton. For HBO: senior producer, Nancy Abraham; executive producer,Sheila Nevins.

“BALLET BOYS”— Dancing Boys

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“Ballet Boys”

Boys Dancing

The Norwegian documentary “Ballet Boys”  follows Lukas, Syvert and Torgeir, who are all in the same class together at a ballet school, where they’re the boys among many girls. To be honest, while early on the documentary asks questions about why the boys want to do ballet, it quickly realizes there’s no better reason than ‘why not?’ After all like anything else, once you realize you have a talent, it’s no surprise you’d want to pursue it. However there are undoubtedly reasons to stop, not least the time, passion and dedication needed, especially knowing that there are no guarantees of a successful dancing career at the end of it.

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“Ballet Boys” introduces us to  young dancers and the bonds that have grown between them over their years together. The  main drama in the this documentary film comes with the dancers  approaching the end of their schooldays and they must decide what to do next. Do they want to continue with ballet at another school, and even if they do, what would going to different places to dance do to strong bonds between them?

The core is a story that could be told about many young people as they finish school and have to decide what to do next, although the stakes here are a little higher, especially for the Lukas who’s been invited to audition for the Royal Ballet School in London, which wouldn’t just mean he leaves Syvert and Torgeir behind, but has to move to a whole new country, all by himself, at just 16-years-old.

Thanks to the fact it allows you to get to know and care about the teens, “Ballet Boys” is surprisingly effective and watchable. There is a slight sense that the film might have found a better way to tie together what is universal and what it unique to the world of ballet, but it does ensure that those who aren’t that interested in dance will be pulled into what is essentially a coming of age tale about three young men.

One thing that I did not really care for was that the documentary does seem to have a slightly uncomfortable interest in showing the boys in their changing room. It tries to explain it by saying this is where they are most themselves and where they relax, but after a while it starts to feel a little voyeuristic.

This is a well-made and interesting documentary which may find its core in a story that’s pretty universal, but still offers plenty of interest for those who like dance.

 

“WHAT’S THE T?”— A Documentary About Trans Women

“WHAT’S THE T?”
A Documentary About Trans Women
Amos Lassen

In 2014 trans people have gained more mainstream prominence than they ever have before, with the likes of “Orange Is The New Black” star, Laverne Cox, making it onto the cover of Time magazine and Conchita Wurst winning the Eurovision Song Contest. However it’s also true that the majority of those who are fully supportive of trans aren’t really aware of  the issues that people who don’t fit into the traditional gender binary face, or even that ‘pre-op’ and ‘post-op’ are not the main types of trans people. I admit that I am one of those and I am the uncle to a FTM trans nephew.

A documentary such as “What’s The T?” can be important, as simply bringing us into a variety of trans women’s lives and therefore  can be illuminating and educational. The film features contributions from the fairly well-known Cassandra Cass along with a range of ordinary trans people, who talk about the issues they face as well as inviting us into their lives, which range from the remarkably ordinary to those making a difference for both other trans* people and society in general.

The documentary offers a range of trans lives.  It seems that in the last couple of years there’s been an effort from some places to try to homogenise and assimilate the trans public image in order to make it more palatable to the mainstream and due to a distaste for those who transition and then don’t simply try to fit themselves neatly into one of the two traditional gender options.

For example Cassandra Cass, who’s made her name amongst drag queens in burlesque, talks (from a slightly pop psychology perspective) about how she was influenced by Playboy bunnies during her transition as she believes that growing up these people were presented to her as being amongst the ultimate women. She certainly doesn’t look like most people and her life isn’t traditional, but she is nonetheless  a person who is  articulate and inspiring.

 There are those trans women living relatively ordinary lives, who have to face prejudice and issues specific to their life experience, but who are largely just like everybody else. Indeed it’s one of the documentary’s great strengths that it spends as much time talking about the problems we all share no matter our gender identity as it does those specific to the trans experience.

“LADY VALOR: THE KRISTIN BECK STORY”— An Amazing Story of a Transgender Woman

lady valor

“Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story”

An Amazing Story of a Transgender Woman

Amos Lassen

Christopher Beck is a former Navy Seal who embarks on a new mission but does so as Kristin Beck. After serving for twenty years as a Seal, Christopher decides that the time has come to live his life truthfully and to him that means as a transgender woman. This is the story of Kristin’s search for the ideals of America that she worked so hard for as a member of the elite forces. She also served as a member of the United States Special Warfare Development Group what many in the public refer to as SEAL Team Six.  In 2011, she retired with rank    from active duty and continued high-level clearance work for the United States government and the Pentagon. What people did not know was that Kristin hid her true identity throughout and after her service knowing she would lose it all if anyone were to know her secret. Then in 2013, a year and a half after retirement, Kristin came out publicly first on Linked In and on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 soon thereafter. Needless to say, many were surprised. In this film we see exclusive interviews with Kristin’s family and friends about her service, as well as their reactions to her coming out. There is also footage of Chris Beck in training and combat. The documentary was filmed only a few months shortly after Kristin’s coming out and the whole business was still new and emotional for those who are close to her. While many people have been supportive, some in the public have expressed more bigotry than she ever expected and after spending her life in service to her country, Kristin learned that the biggest fight she had was not on the battlefield but at home.

 The film was developed from the profile that was originally run by Anderson Cooper. Quite simply it tells the remarkable story of the transformation of a macho gung-ho decorated 20-year Navy Seal from a man’s man to a woman.  The film questions some of the stereotypical ideas that many hold about those who are transgender. We see Kristin’s battle up close and personal—her struggle for acceptance with her family and her former military colleagues. While we have seen great progress made in the area of transgender people there are still those who will find this film to be shocking and there are those that will label it disgusting. These are the people who really need to see this film. I found this to a beautiful and honest film that has a great deal to say and it is recommended viewing for all.

“MOM AND DAD: I HAVE SOMETHING TO TELL YOU”— A New Documentary from Israel

“MOM AND DAD: I HAVE SOMETHING TO TELL YOU”

A New Documentary from Israel

MOM-DAD-Poster

“Mom and Dad: I Have Something to Tell You” is a documentary film about the journey parents whose children tell them they are gay are forced to take. Their life changes in a second and a challenging and slow journey, for all the family, begins, taking them from denial to understanding, from anger to the need to be there for him or her, from shame to acceptance.

This sensitive and earnest documentary features and is narrated by Assi Azar, one of the rising TV stars in Israel, a screen writer and the host of the Israeli version of “Big Brother”. His personal story is unfolded, including the first heart to heart conversation between Assi and his parents since he came out when he was 24.

Director: Yair Qedar
Year: 2011
Genre: Documentary
Language: Hebrew
Runtime: 45 min-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-jb_5-Yy6s#t=22

See more at: http://awiderbridge.org/mom-and-dad-i-have-something-to-tell-you-with-assi-azar/#sthash.AO1zKhqc.dpuf

“DO I SOUND GAY” to premier at Toronto Film Fest

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Do I Sound Gay? Toronto Film Festival Premiere

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 DO I SOUND GAY? is a hilarious, poignant docu-comedy about the stigma attached to the “gay voice” and director David’s own anxiety about “sounding gay.” An entertaining chorus of friends, family, strangers on the street and celebrities like David Sedaris (in his first film!), Dan Savage, Tim Gunn, George Takei and Margaret Cho coax David along in his quest for empowerment. In TIFF’s words, “Thorpe makes for a winning and sympathetic guide who doesn’t shy away from confronting taboos and vulnerabilities that often go unexpressed.” The premiere will take place at noon on Sunday, Sept. 7  at the Ryerson Theatre, followed by an onstage conversation with director David and pundit/activist/sex-advice guru Dan Savage. Tickets are on sale now.

“DEREK JARMAN: LIFE AS ART”— Remembering Derek Jarman

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“DEREK JARMAN: LIFE AS ART”

Remembering Derek Jarman

Amos Lassen

Derek Jarman was one of the UK’s most talented, innovative and controversial independent filmmaker. He made several significant films such as Caravaggio and Wittgenstein. He was also a hugely talented painter, writer, and gardener, and following his HIV+ diagnosis became an ardent activist for gay rights. He only made the films he wanted to make, giving voice to his vision of the world as a gay man, a lover of high art and Super-8. We lost him in 1994. Derek Jarman: Life as Art explores the rich and colorful life and loves of Jarman. We see insightful interviews with some of his closest friends, family and colleagues including Tilda Swinton, Christopher Hobbs, James Mackay, Simon Fisher Turner, Nigel Terry, Tariq Ali, Peter Tatchell and Jill Balcon. By using beautiful slow-motion Super-8 shots of the contributors, we see the influence of Jarman’s stylistic look to the documentary. Clips and stills from his films and previously unseen footage of Jarman directing Wittgenstein allow us to feel the anarchy, color, imagery and poetry of the man and his work.

Here is what some critics have said about this film:

“…the first biopic of independent British filmmaker and writer, Derek Jarman … Originally trained in the arts and set design, Jarman experimented richly with the film medium, particularly super 8, and early on incorporated gay themes and homoeroticism into his films. Daring and controversial, Jarman’s work was well reviewed, and he was considered a genius by many.” 
-EMRO (Educational Media Reviews Online)

”British filmmaker Derek Jarman could certainly be cited as one of the most exciting and controversial independent filmmakers of the past two decades. Derek Jarman: Life as Art does a wonderful job of introducing us to this complex, brilliant artist. Viewers will find included in this engaging documentary, clips from Jarman’s most familiar films as well as informative interviews with many of his creative accomplices. Certain to provoke dialogue given Jarman’s consistent challenges to cinematic conventions, his portrayals of queer life historically and cinematically and the overt politicization of his subject matter. Will be of interest to classes in Queer studies, Cinema Studies and Cultural Studies.” 
-Cade Bursell, Filmmaker and Assistant Professor of Cinema, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

”In Derek Jarman: Life as Art, Tilda Swinton addresses Jarmanís move into Prospect Cottage in Dungeness, a move she understands as evoking what she calls his integrated schizophrenia – the ability to live in different ways. Swinton’s remarks are also an important description of Kimpton-Nyeís documentary, which never seeks to reduce Jarman’s life or art to a single, formative experience or way of living. In this sense, Derek Jarman: Life as Art is essential viewing for anyone interested in what a genuinely independent cinema looked like. Kimpton-Nye details not only the continual shifts in Jarman’s life, but also the shifts in his production, and the ways in which those shifts result from a continual sense of wonder and exploration that characterized Jarman as both an artist and a human being. 

Without ever saying so, this film makes clear that Jarman belongs alongside of more canonized figures of a genuinely independent cinema, alongside of Orson Welles, John Cassavetes, Stan Brakhage and Andy Warhol, and in opposition to that which has been sold to us in megaplexes around the world as ìindie. Jarman’s lyrical, political cinema comes forward in Kimpton-Nye’s film as the product of an artist incapable of settling into a hardened world-view, and was thus impossible to market in the mainstream of independent cinema where platitudes reign and ideas are important only insofar as they can be made into t-shirts, or emblazoned on the sides of coffee cups.”
-Brian Price, Assistant Professor of Film Studies, Department of English, Oklahoma State University

”Derek Jarman: Life as Art serves as an important reminder of the ways in which Jarman’s films have always transcended any easy categorization. Regardless of whether he was reworking the classic Renaissance plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare into homoerotic visions of desire and fear, or conjuring England’s apocalypse through a punk miasma, Jarman was a fiercely independent and unique filmmaker. Derek Jarman: Life as Art uses interviews with Jarman’s closest collaborators to provide a compelling biography that situates his multifaceted works into a singular artistic vision, and is essential viewing for anyone interested in experimental cinema, gay and lesbian cinema, and British film history.”
-Chris Robé, Assistant Professor of Film and Multimedia Studies, Florida Atlantic University

”…this documentary gives hope to any aspiring filmmaker or artist. An uplifting celebration of Jarman’s life and work – even after Jarman’s body succumbed to HIV, Kimpton-Nye’s documentary illustrates how Jarman’s indomitable spirit seems to transcend death itself in his work. The complexity of Jarman’s life and his artistic practice makes his work relevant across a wide disciplinary spectrum, from Art History and Film, to Gay and Lesbian Studies. Kimpton-Nye’s documentary is a ‘must-have’ for any liberal arts institute; a great resource for educators.” 
-Aaron Kerner, Assistant Professor of Cinema, San Francisco State University

”…an informative and moving account of the life and work of one of the giants of the queer avant-garde. The film brilliantly succeeds in walking a fine line between featuring a large amount of information on its subject and creating a feeling of intimacy. The numerous interviews with Jarman’s friends and colleagues that usefully punctuate the film’s concise biography resonate intellectually as well as emotionally. Their frank and nuanced tone is celebratory without being hagiographical. Its one-hour format makes the film an ideal supplement for any syllabus featuring Jarman, no matter whether taught in avant-garde film curricula, queer studies, art history, or British and Commonwealth culture courses.”
-Roy Grundmann, Associate Professor of Film Studies, Boston University, Author of Andy Warhol’s Blow Job; Contributing Editor, Cineaste magazine.

”Director Andy-Kimtpon-Nyeís biopic on Derek Jarman is a layered and thoughtful examination of the complexity of the artist’s life and work. As a writer, theater designer, gardener, painter, gay and AIDS rights activist, and what some call the most important British filmmaker of the latter part of the twentieth century, Jarman left us with a unique vision that was always innovative and controversial. That controversy, however, sometimes took away from the true artistry and originality of his work. This film pays homage to Jarman by gathering fellow collaborators such as actors Tilda Swinton, Karl Johnson, and Nigel Terry, producer James Mackay, composer Simon Fisher Turner, and writer/filmmaker, Tariq Ali, along with his biographer, Tony Peake, and Jarman’s own sister, Gaye Temple, to give us a behind-the-scenes look at the provocative way Jarman used his own life as the backdrop for nearly every project he undertook, whether he was making a film about the Renaissance painter Caravaggio, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, or his own loss of vision from AIDS-related illness in Blue. The film is respectful of his out gay life and politics and avoids the clichéd and reductive treatment he often received in the British media. Because his life and work touch on so many subjects, the film is an excellent resource not only for anyone studying or teaching Jarman, but it should be a part of any library collection that contains his films and scripts, memoirs, gardening books, and catalogues of his paintings.”
-Dr. Scott Rayter, Lecturer, Dept. of English / Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto

“THE BEARS OF BEIRUT”— Helping Gays in the Middle East

THE BEARS OF BEIRUT is a documentary about two Lebanese gay men helping other LGBTs with the effects of Syria’s brutal war. See how you can support us below.

 

 http://vimeo.com/98637670 

 

 

THE BEARS OF BEIRUT is a new documentary about two Lebanese gay men doing their best to help other gay people streaming in from Syria’s brutal war.

Beirut-based Bertho and Hixam have recently established Proud Lebanon, a non-religious, non-political, non-partisan civil rights society, offering a community centre for those who need it. This organisation is struggling to provide help to the many gay, lesbian and trans people in need of medical care, psychological assistance, and transit to a gay-friendly country. With over 1 million Syrians arriving in Lebanon in the last two years, Bertho and Hicham are working against the odds to assist many new arrivals to Beirut in dire need. This film is their story – about community, about tolerance, and about what is next for Lebanon and the entire Middle East.

We can only make this film with your help. Here’s how you can get involved with our campaign.

 

 

Why are we making this film? The answer is far from simple, so here are some details below.

Firstly, the title. BEIRUT is the easy part, but are there BEARS that exist in that city? Perhaps at the local zoo. The kind of bears we are focussing on are of the gay subculture variety. A “bear”, as mentioned in our film above, is a type of gay man with a hairy body, facial hair, and are either stocky, muscular or both. This subculture within the gay community exists all over the world.

In Beirut, a liberal city in a very conservative region, there is a community of gay bears that live somewhat openly. Bertho, one of the subjects of our film, and a leading light in the local bear community, ran the only travel agency for LGBT people in the entire Arab world. As part of his tours, he organized a “Mr. Bear Arabia” beauty pageant, where the idea of what is considered beautiful was turned completely on its head.

 

Bertho’s business was deeply affected by the decline in tourism thanks to the ongoing war in Syria. The war has affected Lebanon in many ways, with the UN claiming that over 1 million Syrians have come over the border looking for a safe haven.

He and his friend Hixam (also part of the bear community in Beirut) have instead turned their talents to setting up Proud Lebanon, which has been working to assist both Beirut locals and LGBT Syrian refugees with resources that the groaning public services in Lebanon cannot. They are doing so with very little financial support, and a lot of good will. And, with things possiblygetting more complicated for gay people in Beirut, will they be able to continue without added pressure? Like many small countries, Lebanon struggles with conflicting religious interests and ever-changing politics which affect the daily lives of its residents.

 

The time to film this story is now, as ever-shifting current events are having an effect on all involved. We want to make the world aware of the plight of these brave people, and your contribution to our campaign will allow us to focus on this specific group who to date are virtually ignored by the world’s media.

We aim to focus THE BEARS OF BEIRUT on the following:

 

  • What Bertho, Hixam, and their colleagues are doing, selflessly, for many others who arrive to Proud Lebanon. Those they are helping are in need of psychological and medical help, the need to socialize, and for some, assistance to relocate to countries such as Sweden and Canada.
  • Those they have helped (or are helping) get transit to a more gay-friendly country: how have their lives changed by leaving Syria and arriving somewhere else far from home?
  • The small and friendly gay bear community in Beirut – how they are coping with the changes in Lebanon?

This fundraising event will go towards the first phase of our film – to make a short version of the full movie to demonstrate to others the huge potential of this project.

 

 

 

 

We have come to Indiegogo in search of capital for the first phase of our documentary for several reasons.

  1. Our biggest challenge: we are based in Sweden, where it is very difficult for filmmakers to receive funding for documentary films, even those that went on to win an Oscar.
  2. Unlike other crowdsourcing sites, Indiegogo guarantees your participation with your contribution. Every gift you make will go towards the film, even if we don’t reach our goal of $40,000.
  3. We are in need of footage in order to secure more funding. We intend to start filming in Beirut in November 2014 and will produce a short film that we can then pitch to more international documentary funders.
  4. You will feel absolutely amazing after contributing to a project that intends to change the way people view the lives of LGBT people in the Middle east.

Take a look at the column on the right for the perks we are offering for every contribution, no matter the size. We want to ensure that every contributornot only receives something, but will be part of the film’s ongoing grassroots community. Be part of our regular newsletter, get a credit in the film, receive a souvenir from Beirut, premiere the film at home or to a group, have us speak to your class or group about our film, or even come to dinner with us.

 

 

 

 

 

Your pledge towards our $40,000 goal will allow us to cover a number of costs for this phase of the film.

 

Remember, every pledge, no matter how big, will go directly to these costs:

EQUIPMENT.
Your pledge will go towards:
1. An Arri Alexa camera, the same camera recently used to shoot SKYFALL,THE AVENGERS and AMOUR.
2. Sound equipment.
3. Lighting equipment.

TRANSPORTATION. 
1. Flights from Sweden to Lebanon for two people.
2. A rental van for travel within Beirut.

PERMITS.
Required to film in Lebanon.

CREW.
1. From Sweden
Producer/Director: Rick Jacobs
Cinematographer: Gabriel Mkrttchian

2. From Lebanon
We are working with Beirut-based Olive Tree Productions to source a:
Sound Technician
Camera Assistant
Production Manager

ACCOMMODATION.
Apartment rental in Beirut, provided at a discount as a favour to us.

 

 


THE BEARS OF BEIRUT is also fortunate to have the support of GROWLr, one of the biggest apps for bears available online. GROWLr have offered us sponsorship-in-kind for this campaign to get the word out. A great start from the biggest supporter of the bear community worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The team behind this crowdsourcing campaign are Rick Jacobs and Gabriel Mkrttchian. Here is who we are.

 

RICK JACOBS – Producer/Director
Rick comes from the USA but has called Europe his hope for over 20 years. He currently resides in Malmö, Sweden.

 

Rick’s background is as a producer and director for theatre, television and film. He has spent the last three years writing and producing TAREQ TAYLOR’S NORDIC COOKERY, now broadcast in 117 countries on such networks as BBC Worldwide, RTL, Fox International Channels and UKTV.

He has directed stage musicals and opera in London and New York, including a London revival of the epic musical GOLDEN BOY, originally starring Sammy Davis, Jr., HIGH SOCIETY (UK tour), and THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE. Rick also directed the new musical CONNECT/DISCONNECT in NYC in 2009.

THE BEARS OF BEIRUT marks his debut as a documentary director. “As a gay man, stories about other LGBT people who struggle with life decisions they can’t control is something very close to my heart,” says Rick.

 

“PETER DE ROME: GRANDFATHER OF GAY PORN”— A New Documentary

Peter de Rome in London

“Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn”

A New Documentary

Amos Lassen

Peter de Rome is an early gay pornographer—he began by making short films in the 1960s and he basically made them for his new use and satisfaction. He would also show them to his friends. One of his early films, “Hot Pants” one first place at the Amsterdam Wet Dream Festival and this brought him interest but it was really not until 1973 when producer Jack Deveau put some of his short films together and added a couple of other shorts that people came to know De Rome’s work. Then a year later, in 1974, De Rome made his first feature length film, “Adam and Yves” and this was later followed in 1976 by “The Destroying Angel”, De Rome’s attempt at gay horror.

We see here that De Rome began filming gay porn when homosexuality was outlawed in America. He chose to show the gay experience in sexually erotic and poetic vignettes at a time when only a few colors would dare to do the same. Because he dared, he opened yet another closet door in the gay community. De Rome himself was nothing special to look at. He was a little Englishman who wore glasses yet he was admired by some of the best in the world—Sir John Gielgud and Andy Warhol, to name just two. From his hobby of shooting gay men having sex, De Rome was one of those responsible for the advent of gay porn. Now all of us can learn about him in Ethan Reid’s new documentary,eH

 “Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn”.  Here we see and hear De Rome (who died last summer right before his 90th birthday) talk about himself and his career and I tell you that it is thrilling. He was a man of many stories and they are delightful.

We learn here that what makes sex so erotic is the visual and literary treatment of it. De Rome compares pornography to vulgarity when he says, “Pornography is to eroticism as vulgarity is to wit. Eroticism is to arousal as pornography is to performance. Sex has such an enormous affinity to fantasy and is largely comprised of it, that arousal before the act can be all-important, sometimes even more exciting than the act itself. I know I’ve been labeled the grandfather of porn. I’d rather preferred the granddaddy of porn but I had no say in that”.

Peter de Rome’s films are full of fun, beauty and titillation – and made in a time when homosexuality was illegal. He describes sex as a beautiful watercolor and he maintains that his films showed both the beauty and the eroticism of sex. He insisted that his sex scenes be titillating. I repeat once again that he made his films at a time when being gay was illegal yet he showed men having sex and loving each other. He was ahead of his time and I believe that if he were still alive, he would be still ahead of his time now.

The new documentary explores both De Rome’s work and his life and when we see him here at 90, it is hard to imagine this gentle cute old man making such wild and erotic films. His actors in some cases were sailors that he met on the street. And it is truly difficult to imagine this “distinguished, very English and well mannered almost beyond belief” whose “words are peppered with humor and naughtiness” directing gay porn films. He “speaks with a fluidity that can only come with being totally at ease with himself. He describes New York in the 1960s and 70s with the same misty-eyed nostalgia as others who were there, but it somehow sounds realer told by him”.

The documentary includes clips from his films, of which there are many, and they are quite explicit but they do add to the film. It is sad to say that De Rome died recently but in the film he seems very much alive as others look back at his work as they explain how his hardcore films became appreciated as works of art.

peter de rome 1

De Rome was really discovered by a new generation after he had already retired from filmmaking. His movies were once considered dangerous as well as illegal and he risked arrest almost every time he picked up a camera. Yet he became the first erotic filmmaker to have his work preserved for posterity by the British Film Institute in his homeland’s national film archive.

In the film he tells his story and we see him in London, New York, Barcelona, Fire Island and Sandwich.  It took him a long time to be recognized and I am not sure that pornography is the correct word to describe his output. He had flair with a camera and he brought an artist’s sensibility to his work. He definitely had an eye for the surreal and the absurd. Just as he has created eroticism so has he created great beauty.

For most of his career, De Rome worked alone–writing, casting, shooting and editing those short films. He had his own vision and he pursued it  and now some of his films have become social documents of a time that was. We hear from former collaborators and some of those he has influenced such as Wakefield Poole, director of the breakthrough 1971 gay porn movie Boys in the Sand (He is receiving his own renewed interest with Jim Tushinski’s documentary on Wakefield).

De Rome states, “I am often accused that my films are made ‘purely for titillation.’ If by titillation we mean the pleasure of excitement that is exactly why they are made. I can think of no better reason”.

The film is simply shot but then it is difficult to deal with a talent as big as De Rome. He was a great filmmaker and an artist. I could go on and on but it is better if you see the film yourselves.