Tuesday, 24 November 2009

First Look: Word is Out

Word is Out
Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives

"...graceful, funny and often very moving ... The people have in common a kind of confidence and certainty" The New York Times

"A landmark docu, not just for being the first on its subject, but also because of the collective way it was financed, directed and edited" Screendaily

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) will be screening a restored print of the pioneering film Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives (1977), the first feature-length documentary devoted to gay life in the US.

Helmed by a collective of six gay and lesbian directors that formed the Mariposa Film Group - Peter Adair, his sister Nancy Adair, Veronica Selver, Andrew Brown, Lucy Massie Phenix, and two-time Academy Award winner Rob Epstein - Word Is Out highlighted evocative, articulate and often humorous interviews with 26 gay and lesbian individuals, aged 18 to 77.

Recounting the stories of several 'average' Americans navigating their sexuality in a 'straight world', the film had enormous impact when it was released and became an icon of the emerging gay rights movement of the 1970s. The rising tide of anti-gay propaganda in the 1970s, spearheaded by Anita Bryant's Bible-thumping crusade, revitalised the gay movement and in 1977 Word Is Out premiered at San Francisco's Castro Theatre - the same year gay rights activist Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Film Programmer Kristy Matheson says that Word is Out was a landmark in American popular culture and queer cinema alike.

"Word is Out is groundbreaking and fiercely political but at its very core it is a very universal and moving account of growing up, falling in love and navigating that tricky space between childhood and adulthood. I have compared the film to the Seven-Up Series because it has that same scope of really intriguing characters. By the film's end you have your favourites, the ones you are really attached to, but overall it's hard not be overwhelmed by each interviewee's honesty and fearlessness," she said.

The project began in 1975 when Gimme Shelter cameraman Peter Adair envisioned a short film about gay people to be used as teaching material in schools. With the newly formed Mariposa Film Group forming a strong collective of creatives behind the film, what began as a modest project for positive gay role models became a chronicle of the vast range of gay experience.

Rob Epstein said of the film's restoration: "Even today, thirty years after the film's premiere, it is incredibly moving to witness the people in this film describe gay bars being raided by police in San Francisco in the 1960s, or getting shock treatment, or being put on a diet of two green salads a day by a psychiatrist, all in the hopes of curing or repressing homosexuality."

The film's message is powerful and, as interview subjects describe painful family situations, stories of discrimination, and their decisions to come out of the closet, a true portrait of gay and lesbian experience emerges. Word is Out reveals the raw power of documentary film to capture oral histories, and to this date has stood the test of time.

Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives plays at ACMI from Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 January.

For sessions details please visit: http://www.acmi.net.au/

Further information

Samatha Chater
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2475 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 655
[email] Samantha.Chater@acmi.net.au
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