Documenting LGBT Lives

Although on the surface these three documentaries seem to have little in common, they all focus on the unrelenting criticism and discrimination people who differ from the majority face. The most admirable thing about the subjects of the films is that no matter the professional or personal repurcussions they may face for their sexuality or gender identity, they remain true to themselves and their beliefs. Never feeling contrived, these films offer a glimmer of hope that the times truly are changing.

Jobriath may not be the name that comes to mind when glam rock is mentioned, but Kieran Turner’s fascinating documentary, aptly titled Jorbiath A.D., argues that maybe it would have been had “the true fairy of Rock n Roll” not been advertised as such. Born Bruce Campbell, Jobriath’s talent and imagination is certainly undeniable. The film follows his rise from being a member of the original cast of the Los Angeles production of Hair to being the first openly gay rock store and being promoted by manager Jerry Brandt. Despite a barage on the general public with billboards and photos of Jobriath’s face, he never reached the level of stardom he deserved. After seeing the film, however, it is clear that Jorbiath paved the way for such artists as The Scissor Sisters, Freddy Mercury, and Boy George.

I Am a Woman Now, directed by Michael Van Erp, focuses on a group of 5 transwomen who were some of the first people to undergo sexual reassignment surgery. Now in their 70s, these women are filled with interesting stories of their own journeys of self-discovery, the discrimination they faced, and the loves they had in their lives. Thanks to the help of a man in Casablanca named Doctor Burou (otherwise known at the “Wizard of Casablanca”) these women were able to lead the lives they were born to lead. Charming, inspiring, and at times heart-breaking, Van Erp’s documentary humanizes a procedure large portions of the global population have a difficult time wrapping their head around.

Ostracized by much the Episcopal Church for being openly homosexual, New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robison is the subject of Macky Alston’s Love Free or Die. The title, a play on the official motto of the state of New Hampshire, perfectly articulates what Bishop Robinson fights for throughout the narrative: the right of every human being to have their love and relationships recognized in the eyes of God. Bishop Robinson’s consecration caused a schism in the Episcoal Church that lead to over one million members leaving. Despite being publicly asked to resign by Archbishop Rowan Williams and being excluded from the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, Robinson’s story is one of relentless hope and faith.

These victims of ostracism are a small fraction of the members of the LGBT community who have suffered. It is their stories of bravery that can help inspire avnew generation of LGBT people and their allies to rise up and call for drastic change.

NewFest  runs at the Film Society from July 27 – 31. Jobriath A.D.  screens Saturday, July 28 at 10:30 PM with director Kieran Turner in person. I Am a Woman Now screens Sunday, July 29 at 8:15 PM and Love Free or Die screens Sunday, July 29 at 6:15 PM with director Macky Alston in person. Read more about the NewFest 2012 Film Festival and the full lineup here. 

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