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VITO: The Life of Gay Activist Vito Russo

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Vito Russo. NYC., Digital ID 1661024, New York Public LibraryVito Russo. NYC., Digital ID 1661024, New York Public LibraryTonight at 9pm, HBO will premiere Jeffrey Schwarz's new documentary VITO: The Life of Gay Activist Vito Russo. Extensive research for the film was undertaken at the New York Public Library using Vito Russo's papers, as well as many other collections, such as the Gay Activists Alliance Records and ACT UP New York Records.

I was privileged to preview the film last week and hear from the filmmaker, as well as Russo's brother Charles Russo and cousin Phyllis Antonellis, talk about Russo's life and work. The film is simply breathtaking. Schwarz shows the visceral and singular influence that Russo had on Gay activism in the '70s and '80s, as well as giving a genuine taste of those heady times.

My favorite part was getting a lived sense of how groundbreaking Russo's work on Gay cinema was — bringing gay audiences together for the first time to interrogate popular culture, and to recover the gay past in long forgotten films. That, and Russo's family is charming. You get to see Gay Liberation through their eyes and see firsthand how LGBT activism expands the world for everyone.

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