Few people outside the LGBT community know about Vito Russo, but his story deserves wider recognition. This documentary shows us how he became involved in the gay rights movement in the 1960s, trying to act as a uniter between various warring factions, right through the AIDS turbulence of the 80s where he criticized gays for voting for a president who cared little about this life-and-death struggle. But this is also the story of how Vito the movie buff wrote a now classic book that inspired the documentary The Celluloid Closet (1995), a chronicle of how gays were portrayed in Hollywood from the silents up to the present day. At turns angry and entertaining, this film is always relevant and even touching as it shows how beloved Russo had become near the end of his life.
2011-U.S. 93 min. Color-B/W. Produced and directed by Jeffrey Schwarz.
Trivia: Premiered at the New York Film Festival, then shown on HBO and released on DVD. Co-executive produced by Bryan Singer. The interviewees include Lily Tomlin.
Last word: “The idea to make a film about Vito came about five years ago when I started to realize that Vito was not really being talked about. I look at a lot of the quote unquote definitive histories of our history and I don’t see his name in there. I was worried he would be forgotten and that the next generation of gay people wouldn’t know his story. I started to think that because he was involved in the movement even before Stonewall, through the 80s and the AIDS crisis, that telling his story was a way to tell the story of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement.” (Schwarz, Towleroad)