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

School's "Out" for Summer

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

School's "Out" for Summer

Article excerpt

It's Elementary, Debra Chasnoff's little documentary about tolerance, beats back a giant right-wing assault

More than three years after it was shot, the groundbreaking documentary It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in, School will air on at least 60 PBS stations in June and later this summer. "It's looking very promising," says Debra Chasnoff, the Oscar winner who directed the educational film and coproduced it with Helen Cohen. "It's a victory for us because there's been a tremendous campaign against the film."

The right-wing barrage of mass mailings, petitions, and videos has attempted to steer parents and teachers away from even seeing It's Elementary, a 58-minute program about how several different elementary schools have approached discussing gay and lesbian issues with children. (The film was trimmed for broadcast from its original 78-minute length.) Most notably, attacks have come from the American Family Association's Donald Wildmon--who counters with his own "bibilically [sic] sound" video--and D. James Kennedy at Coral Ridge Ministries, who warns that It's Elementary will "lure children into ACCEPTANCE of homosexuality" and introduce kids as young as 5 to "deviant sexual behavior."

"The film is made with an adult audience in mind," counters Chasnoff, who won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject in 1991 for Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment. "The goal is to encourage parents [and teachers] to have a dialogue with children."

There is no mention in the film of what gay and lesbian people do sexually, only that they are sometimes treated with hatred, prejudice, and discrimination. Judging by the children's on-camera comments, opinions, and language, they already have had exposure to the subject of homosexuality. "The question," Chasnoff says, "is what have they been exposed to?"

The producers have mounted their own small-scale countercampaign, using direct mail and the media to encourage supporters of It's Elementary to contact their local public TV stations to request the film, which is being offered by San Francisco station KQED through American Public Television. Mailings and press kits from Women's Educational Media, Chasnoff and Cohen's production company, point to praise from a host of journalists and educators, including the Los Angeles Times's Howard Rosenberg, members of the New York and San Francisco city school boards, and Bob Chase, president of the National Education Association (who called the film "a great resource for parents, teachers, and community leaders"). …

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