If, like me, you don’t know much about longtime LGBT activist Vito Russo, you should definitely tune in tonight to HBO at 9 Eastern and Pacific for the premier of Vito, a new documentary by filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz. (For the record, as the Advocate points out, non-millennial LGBT people, activists, and allies — to whom Russo is iconic — will also enjoy the film.)
Through Vito, Schwarz seeks to introduce Russo to the newest generations of LGBTs and allies. Russo, who died of AIDS in 1990 at the age of 44, was involved in the modern movement for LGBT civil rights from the very beginning, having participated in the Stonewall Riots on the night of June 27-28, 1969. A subsequent raid on the Snake Pit, an after-hours bar he frequented, ended with a young gay man impaling himself on a fence while trying to escape the police and galvanized the 23-year-old Russo into action. He became an outspoken critic of the way Hollywood mistreated gays and lesbians, writing a landmark 1981 book on the subject called The Celluloid Closet. After Russo’s death, his book was turned into a documentary with support from Hollywood, HBO, and the LGBT community. Russo also wrote for the Advocate, and after being diagnosed with AIDS, worked tirelessly with the group ACT UP for education, treatment, and prevention of HIV and AIDS. In fact, the Advocate quotes Schwartz as saying that the life of Vito Russo is “essentially a history of the gay movement from Stonewall through ACT UP.”
In addition to family members and friends of Vito Russo, Vito features archival footage and interviews with what the Advocate‘s Trudy Ring calls “a veritable who’s who of the modern gay rights movement” including Bruce Vilanch, Larry Kramer, Armistead Maupin, Malcolm Boyd, Gabriel Rotello, Jenni Olson, David Ehrenstein, and Lily Tomlin.
Vito looks like a fascinating look at one of the LGBT movement’s founding fathers. I can’t wait to see it! For more information about the documentary or about tonight’s premiere, click here.