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LGBT movie collection
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Word Is Out-Cinema Pride Collection
Expanded Edition of 6-9-10 WCT KATM Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.
This is a tremendously exciting week for fans of LGBT cinema with two stellar releases on DVD.  Word
Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives
, the groundbreaking 1977 feature length documentary focusing on
the LGBT community – the first of its kind – is finally coming to DVD in a beautifully restored edition.  
The Cinema Pride Collection from Fox/MGM contains ten LGBT themed movies spanning 40 years from
The Children Hour to 2005’s Imagine Me & You.  Both are absolute must haves.  The release of
both yesterday on June 8, were timed to honor the 40th anniversary of the first Gay Pride Marches.

Word Is Out was the brainchild of the late filmmaker Peter Adair, a gay television producer living
and working in San Francisco, the gay mecca of the 70s.  Adair had the idea of creating a film that
would allow an assortment of gays and lesbians to speak about their lives in America.  He brought
together a core group of experienced and nascent filmmakers who shared Adair’s vision of creating
the film.  The core group of six eventually gave themselves the name The Mariposa Film Group and
included Adair, his sister Nancy, Andrew Brown, Lucy Massie Phenix, Veronica Selver, and
Rob Epstein,
a 19 year-old San Franciscan transplant who answered Adair’s ad looking for help with the film.  
Epstein has gone on to win two Oscars for
The Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads: Stories from
the AIDS Quilt
, as helm, Paragraph 175, The Celluloid Closet and Howl, the forthcoming biopic of poet
Allen Ginsberg.  

Eventually, the group fanned out to search for interview subjects, each helping out with various
aspects of filming and post production.  Eventually, 26 individuals were included in the final film.  
These 26 every day folks represent a lovely and vivid cross section of gay life in America – then and,
surprisingly for its time, now.  Though the clothes and some of the settings have dated the message
hasn’t.  The film gives us African American gays and lesbians, butch dykes, butch femmes, an Latino
lesbian couple, an Asian gay male, gay and lesbian activists, a conservative gay businessman, a
ballet dancer, a delightful man who seems to be the embodiment of glitter rock and gender bending,
complete with glitter polish on his nails and a nose ring (in 1977!), and on and on.  It’s an
empowering group who speak about the difficulties of living their lives as openly gay in a time when
gay liberation was in its formative stages.

Many of the stories are heartbreaking with many of the subjects describing horrendous physical and
verbal abuses (two of the individuals were institutionalized and were subjected to shock treatments),
years of personal traumas and emotional upheavals, along with the rejection of family members and
the legal separation from children.  But none of the interview subjects seem to regret for a moment,
finally, the choice of living their lives Out and Proud.  This message gets through again and again but
is never preachy – the film is edited so we are caught up in the stories of the folks on camera – who
appear unadorned, unashamed, and crackling with vitality.

I first saw
Word Is Out when it was broadcast on PBS in 1978 and its impact on a young gay man was
profound.  But in viewing the film again (which as noted, has been beautifully restored) I’d forgotten
how entertaining it is.  Adair and his core group, with their combined intuition, luck and experience,
welded together a group of 26 individuals that truly make this a memorable cinema experience.  The
DVD also includes a plethora of special features that include a look back with surviving members of
the filmmaking crew and interview subjects, and more fascinating background material.

The Fox/MGM
Cinema Pride Collection (available exclusively at Amazon.com) makes for a lovely
companion set to
Word Is Out.  The ten films, as noted, span 40 years of gay cinema and
demonstrate just how far we’ve come in terms of visibility and acceptance and also speak to the
increasing use of LGBT themed subject matter in movies by filmmakers in a myriad of genres.  The
set kicks off with 1961’s lesbian themed
The Children’s Hour, William Wyler’s updating of his original
film version of Lillian Hellman’s play in which two schoolteachers, Shirley MacLaine and Audrey
Hepburn, are whispered to be – horrors – lesbians!  Attitudes and times have changed and the movie
is ridiculously chaste in depicting MacLaine’s yearning for Hepburn but it’s well acted and speaks to a
time when intolerance was the norm for Our People.  We then jump to 1978 and
La Cage Aux Folles,
the original French film that inspired the hit Broadway musical (recently back on the boards) and the
1996 American remake,
The Birdcage, in which a drag queen club owner and his diva-like star, must
butch it up when the club owner’s son brings home his fiancée and her conservative parents for
dinner.  These two make for a splendid double feature (feel free to argue over the merits of each
version – both have moments of comedic bliss for me).

Next in the set is
My Beautiful Laundrette, Stephen Frears’s racial drama from 1986 in which Daniel
Day Lewis plays a gay punk who helps his Pakistani lover open the launderette of the title.  Sharply
written and directed, it remains one of my favorite movies – with the gay characters and themes a
decided bonus.  Then it’s off to the land of Oz for 1994’s seminal drag queen film
The Adventures of
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
, a road trip film with hunky Guy Pearce, Hugo Weaving, and Terrence
Stamp as drag queens crossing the outback heading to a club date in the appropriately titled pink
school bus getting into trouble and performing in Oscar winning costumes along the way.

Things get serious with 1997’s
Bent, based on the acclaimed play with Clive Owen and a Lorthaire
Bluteau as lovers who can’t touch each other enduring torture and other hardships in a concentration
camp during WWII and Hilary Swank won her first Oscar as the murdered transgendered Brandon
Teenan in the moving 1999 biopic
Boys Don’t Cry.  The set also includes the fluffy 1998 comedy The
Object of My Affection
which finds Jennifer Aniston in love with her gay roommate Paul Rudd, the
sweet lesbian romantic comedy
Kissing Jessica Stein from 2001 and another of my favorite LGBT
themed movies, 2005’s lesbian romantic drama,
Imagine Me & You with Piper Perabo, Lena Headey,
Matthew Goode.

For those who want to celebrate Gay Pride at the movies,
Word Is Out and The Cinema Pride Collection
will certainly help get the parties started.
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