Overview: Who? Honestly, that was my first reaction. For some reason when a person’s name is the title of a piece I think that it must be someone I should know. I do not know this person. His full name is Vito Russo and he was a major player in the beginnings of the gay-rights movement. He was a founding member of a number of advocacy groups including GLADD as well as a writer and lecturer.
Expectations: All I can say is that he must be a champion for his cause; a hero among his community, even after his death in 1990. He boldly must have raised awareness and saw a need to make mainstream America listen to the homosexual sector of the citizenry. He must have wanted to be just as respected, liked and understood as anybody.
My expectations going into watching this documentary is to have all those statements in the previous paragraph proved true. Why else present this biography if he was not a unique and passionate individual in his goal? Clearly, there must be stories and testimonials about his efforts to make all gays march with heads held high? Is he a hero to his community? These questions surface before I even watched the documentary. What follows is my gut reaction after watching VITO.
Gut Reaction: Upon watching VITO I’d have to say, with no surprise, that the statements made above did all prove true. Now, I’m a heterosexual male so all those facts about the New York gay scene in the 70’s – 80’s and the tribulations there were back then were not on my mental radar. Hell, I didn’t even know that Lily Tomlin was a lesbian. Seeing the archival footage, new clippings and news reports of the day certainly raised my level of consciousness. I also clearly understand that you cannot
talk about the gay-rights movement or Vito Russo without talking about the other. They were one and the same. He was a champion and a hero for those who needed him to be one. He was also a victim or AIDS, as I dare say, he needed to be to complete the cycle of what it meant to be a gay man. One thing, for sure, he fought for his cause and he fought for it hard.
In Conclusion: In the end I am left with mainly the sense of ignorance on my part. Yes, there are gays where I live but, there are no marches, no gay pride days and the like. This documentary was good history lesson. It was also interesting to see the old film clips that came from the “Celluloid Closet” piece Vito Russo did. Admittedly, this work is no for everyone, including myself, for me, large groups of effeminate men in lip locks made me uncomfortable but, I was glad I got the history lesson nonetheless. If you got 94 minutes check it out for yourself and as always, feel free to comment on the film right here at HBOWatch.