Vito aired on HBO in 2011. Through Jeffrey Schwarz’s directorial hand and the assemblage of interviewees (such as family members Charles Russo and Phyllis Antonellis), Vito tells the harrowing story of the AIDS activist and prolific author of The Celluloid Closet Vito Russo. The activist and film scholar was a loud voice in the gay-rights liberation movement after the devastation of the Stonewall riots, and he manifested his anger at the state of LGBT treatment in a series of lectures about the obfuscation of homosexual film by Hollywood studios.
These lectures culminated in the writing and publishing of The Celluloid Closet, which discusses how the appearance of gay characters onscreen diminished from flamboyant to relatively hushed as Hollywood’s censorship codes grew stricter over the years. Among the topics that the activist advocated for were reformation of the church, political parties, and popular media in order to better the state of tolerance towards homosexual individuals, who were not accepted by mainstream America at the time. Russo died very young, at the age of forty-four due to AIDs (his long-time lover Jeffrey Sevcik suffered the same fate), and his perspective remains a crucial one to the timeline of LGBT progress.
“Incisive and illuminating, this warm tribute to a key figure of the gay rights movement is both intimate and historically expansive.”
— The Hollywood Reporter
“Vito Russo never stopped fighting, even when AIDS was making its final assault on his body. Whenever he could, he would appear, frail but unbowed, at rallies and demonstrations.”
— SF Gate
“He was the original “friend of Dorothy” and spent the better part of a decade diving deeper into film archives to pinpoint and chronicle the history of gay characters and themes in the movies — subliminal or otherwise.”
— The Washington Post
Did You Know?
Not only did Vito Russo publish The Celluloid Closet, but the esteemed gay-pride figure was a crucial part in the formation of organizations such as GAA (Gay Activists Alliance) and GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), both of which remain active to date, staging protests and working to better onscreen representation of LGBT individuals in popular media. Director of Vito Jeffrey Schwarz was also an assistant editor on the film adaptation of The Celluloid Closet. Review our Gay Themed Films Here
Read our interview with Director Jeffrey Schwarz