Jeffrey Schwarz’s portrait of LGBT activist Vito Russo had its world premiere at this Fall’s New York Film Festival. Since then, the doc has screened at a number of LGBT festivals, with more engagements forthcoming. The Quad brings the film back to Russo’s NYC stomping grounds with daily screenings at 1PM and 3PM through December 29.
For younger generations of LGBT individuals and for film scholars, Vito Russo may be familiar as the author of THE CELLULOID CLOSET, the pioneering book exploring representations of homosexuality in the cinema, which was later adapted into the Sundance award-winning documentary by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. For an older generation, Russo was also known as a vibrant gay rights political activist, both before and after the impact of AIDS. He was a co-founder of both GLAAD and ACT UP, recognizing in the former the importance of the media in creating and fostering the public’s view of LGBT people, and in the latter the necessity for the LGBT community to mobilize in order to fight for its own continued existence in the face of the AIDS epidemic. What’s so moving and important about Schwarz’s portrait is not only its deeply felt appreciation for Russo and his diverse contributions to society and culture, but in the way that the documentary also functions as an affecting elegy for an entire generation lost to the AIDS crisis. The film captures not only Russo’s history, but the history of all those people, predominantly gay men, and helps in some way to repopulate the vacuum that has resulted from their loss.