Metro Weekly


Reel Affirmations 2011

Review by Sean Bugg

Rating: starstarstarstarstar (5 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!]
Sunday, 10/16/2011, 7:15 PM
Feature presentation, $12 at Navy Memorial Heritage Center

SOME PEOPLE ARE lucky enough to make a small difference in the world they live in. And some people are stubborn, angry and committed enough to make a huge difference in the world we all live in.

Vito Russo was the second type, a dynamo of gay activism who cut his teeth in the political world of post-Stonewall New York and went on to write the groundbreaking study of gays and lesbians in film, The Celluloid Closet. That book was already translated into a stellar documentary that helped a new generation of LGBT people understand their own history in our nation’s most popular form of entertainment. Now, with Vito, we have a companion documentary that tells the story of Russo himself.

Vito soars in large part because Russo left behind so much footage of himself, not only from his first-of-its-kind gay TV show, but from numerous interviews and public actions. In one amazing archival sequence from the 1973 New York Pride celebration, you see Russo working the stage before a hostile crowd — the fractured nature of the movement had begun pitting drag queens against assimilationists against queers against ad infinitum. Russo puts all his emotions into trying to keep his community together (ultimately, they were placated by a surprise visit from Bette Midler). It contrasts beautifully with footage of his later AIDS activism with Larry Kramer and ACT UP, taking part in the storming of the FDA, using the platform he’d earned through years of work and dedication to angrily and eloquently fight to save the community that was dying around him.

Like its subject, Vito is vibrant, argumentative, embracing and engaging. A stirring reminder of one the founders of the LGBT movement, it’s also one of this year’s films that should not be missed.


Image for Review

Leave a Comment:

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!