Anybody with even the slightest interest in the history of LGBT-themes in cinema should check out the special engagement of 1977 documentary Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives at ACMI here in Melbourne. It started screening today and I meant to get around to writing about it beforehand, but life got in the way. It screens until 17 Jan so you have the weekend to check it out if you so desire (and you should).
Directed in part by Rob Epstein, who would go on to win an Oscar for his queer classic The Times of Harvey Milk and Common Treads: Stories From the Quilt, Word is Out interviews 26 subjects on their lives as gay Americans. It runs for over two hours and is very much a "talking heads" documentary. And yet it is a fascinating movie, a particularly moving time capsule of gay life, especially since the film comes around just before the onslaught of AIDS, and should be essential viewing for any gay audiences.
Everyone will surely identify themselves in at least one of the film's many interviewees. There is "the dyke", "the fag", "the lipstick lesbian", "the jock" and "the bear" for those who like to play the obvious stereotype game. Personally, I responded most to Roger Harkenrider (top left in the image below) whose battles with effeminate tags and his eventual embracing and "fuck it" attitude of the gay culture touched me through the wicked sense of humour that he shows. My favourite member of the cast was Pat Bond (bottom left), a hilarious ex-milatary woman whose ribald sense of humour gives the doco a much-needed kick in the pants from time to time when it threatens to, perhaps, become too dry. There's also Sally Gearhart (top right) who came to prominence working with Harvey Milk on Prop 6 and appeared in The Times of Harvey Milk. Here, she is equally smart and strong-willed. David Gillon (bottom right) is another memorable face as he tells the story of his struggles with coming out and marriage. I had hoped for more of Mark Penney, who sits in his high rise office wearing a suit and his angle would have been a more fascinating one to investigate.
The film really is good and so interesting to see how far, and yet how little, the gay movement has come in the 30 plus years since Word is Out premiered. B+