Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Out of the Past

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Out of the Past

Article excerpt

* Directed by Jeff Dupre * Written by Michelle Ferrari * Narrated by Linda Hunt; voices by Stephen Spinella, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cherry Jones, Edward Norton, and Leland Gantt * Released by Zeitgeist Films

If there is anything I find more upsetting than graphic violence on-screen, it is scenes that show Republicans speaking into micro phones. I would happily take my entire 401(k) and endow any university that would siphon off a fraction of its funds for studying the effects of glamorized depictions of heavy artillery and put it toward research into the psychic damage wrought by ignorant people saying stupid things in such a manner that many others can hear them.

An advisory for the faint of heart: The amplified Republican scenes begin 27 minutes and 29 seconds into Out of the Past, as Utah senator Charles Stewart tells a TV reporter that homosexuality "destroys our families, destroys our lives, and destroys our society." There are many more such statements to follow, all in reaction to the news that a teenager named Kelli Peterson wanted to start a gay-straight alliance in her Salt Lake City high school.

One of the points made by this fine documentary from first-time filmmaker Jeff Dupre is that the Charles Stewarts of the world have been around as long as swine have favored the sty. We know this, of course. What many don't know is that the Kelli Petersons have been toiling to transcend the rule of the fearful for nearly as long.

How much do we know of Barbara Gittings, who co-organized the first pro-gay demonstration in Washington, D.C., in the '60s? Still less is known of a Chicago postal clerk named Henry Gerber, whose efforts to create what is considered to be America's first gay rights organization in 1924 were derailed with Kafkaesque expediency, as Gerber was locked up and suspended from his job and his papers confiscated by a policeman who failed to file formal charges.

Dupre and screenwriter Michelle Ferrari adroitly contrast the private and public agonies of such pioneers with those of Peterson, who grows before our eyes from a suicidal schoolgirl into a fervent rabble-rouser. …

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