Directed by Jefffrey Schwarz • Documentary • With Vito Russo, Lily Tomlin, Larry Kramer, Charles Russo, Armistad Maupin, Phyllis Antonellis, Michael Schiavi, Arnie Kantrowitz, Bruce Vilanch • 2011 • 93 minutes
On June 27, 1969, a police raid on a Greenwich Village gay bar took a surprising turn when patrons decided it was time to fight back. As a riot erupted outside the Stonewall Inn, a new era in the Gay Rights Movement was born. Vito Russo, a 23-year-old film student, was among the crowd. Over the next twenty years until his death from AIDS in 1990, Vito would go on to become one of the most outspoken and inspiring activists in the LGBT community’s fight for equal rights.
In the midst of his involvement with Act Up and the fight against AIDS, Vito was also a prolific writer. His seminal book The Celluloid Closet explored the ways in which gays and lesbians were portrayed on film, what lessons those characters taught gay and straight audiences, and how those negative images were at the root of society’s homophobia. Even before the book was published, Vito was taking The Celluloid Closet on the road, traveling to gay film festivals and college campuses for an entertaining and informative lecture/ clip show that intertwined Vito’s love of show business and radical gay politics. He continued writing, lecturing, speaking out and acting up until just months before his death.
Directed by award-winner Jeffrey Schwarz, Vito paints a galvanizing portrait of this outspoken activist in the LGBT community’s struggle for equal rights, using period footage and film clips to capture a vibrant era of gay culture.