Too ‘Gay’?


The Facebook embed cuts off the full comment, but what the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., posted was:

We confirmed today the Washington film festival “Reel Affirmations” actually rejected “The Lavender Scare” for screening this fall. What film was their “Centerpiece” selection? “Apricot Groves”, an Armenian/American trans drama/romance–“Aram returns to Armenia to propose to his girlfriend….” ! After more than 50 screenings nationwide, from Tampa to Fresno, with TEN “Best of Festival” awards, and a major focus on Frank Kameny’s advocacy, “The Lavender Scare” has yet to be screened in Washington, DC.

Today’s dominant view:

11 Comments for “Too ‘Gay’?”

  1. posted by Jorge on

    “After more than 50 screenings nationwide, from Tampa to Fresno, with TEN “Best of Festival” awards, and a major focus on Frank Kameny’s advocacy, “The Lavender Scare” has yet to be screened in Washington, DC.”

    And I wonder if that movie on Frank Serpico is seeing the same problems trying to find a screening in New York?

    Well that argument was worth a try.

    Reply
  2. posted by David Bauer on

    When say, a business has a exclusionary policy on gays, Stephen rushes to defend them. When a film festival decides it cannot exhibit every single film it gets sent, suddenly we see a flip flop.

    Actually, I don’t know if black gay or bisexual men were also caught up in the Lavender Scare. But, Stephen is – apparently – an expert.

    Reply
    • posted by Gregory on

      When say, a business has a exclusionary policy on gays, Stephen rushes to defend them. When a film festival decides it cannot exhibit every single film it gets sent, suddenly we see a flip flop.

      Stephen is not suggesting that the state prosecute Reel Affirmations for rejecting the film and put them out of business.

      Reply
  3. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Some say documentary about Eisenhower-era purge of gay federal employees was rejected because it focuses mainly on white gay cis men (i.e., the people who were targeted and fired).

    Any facts (e.g. statements from the film festival or from any of the people involved in making the decision) to back up the assertion?

    I hate to be a stickler, but when I read something that starts out with “some say” without any grounding in fact it raises my hackles.

    Reply
    • posted by Gregory on

      I hate to be a stickler, but when I read something that starts out with “some say” without any grounding in fact it raises my hackles.

      It’s rather clear that this is what the Mattachine Society people are saying.

      Reply
    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Does the Mattachine Society have any evidence that the film was rejected (either in DC or the other 73 film festivals where it was rejected) for the reason claimed? Or is this nothing more than yet another example of the old controversy between the tassel-loafer crowd and the rest of us?

      Reply
    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Again, Gregory, I hate to be a stickler, but do you have anything to back up your assertion that the “the Mattachine Society people” are making the assertion that the film was rejected for the reasons given by Stephen?

      I didn’t find it in any of the news articles quoting the Mattachine Society (see the Blade article below for example).

      The reason that I’m a stickler for insisting that statements like yours and Stephen’s have a basis in fact is that I remember all too well David Blankenhorn, who was the leading expert on the damage that same-sex marriage would do to children, an expert up and until he got into court and had to back up his statements with facts. He couldn’t do it, and finally had to admit that he was talking out his ass.

      Reply
  4. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Here is a more complete article, from the Washington Blade:

    The president of the Mattachine Society of Washington, which was originally founded by D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny in the early 1960s, has expressed concern that D.C.’s Reel Affirmations LGBT film festival declined to show an award-winning documentary film in which Kameny plays a key role.

    Charles Frances said he learned last week that Reel Affirmations declined to show in its annual film festival in October a documentary called “Lavender Scare,” which tells the story of how thousands of gay federal workers were fired from their jobs in Washington in the 1950s and 1960s as part of a massive purge of homosexuals.

    Kameny was among those fired from his job as an astronomer at the U.S. Army Map Service in 1957, prompting him to become the first known gay person to challenge his dismissal from a federal government job on grounds of homosexuality.

    It is based on a book by the same name authored by gay historian David Johnson, who wrote that the massive homosexual purges in federal government agencies in Washington and other locations became known as the “lavender scare.”
    The film includes an interview of Kameny telling about the firings and how he emerged as a leader in the early homosexual rights movement, which sought to fight what Kameny and others called the government’s persecution of gays. Kameny died in 2011.

    The Reel Affirmations festival is a project of the DC Center for the LGBT Community. Kimberley Bush, its director, declined to say why “Lavender Scare” wasn’t selected for showing at the festival this year.

    Josh Howard, the producer of “Lavender Scare,” said he submitted applications to have the film shown in 123 festivals throughout the country through a company called FilmFreeway. He said about 50 festivals accepted the film and 73 turned it down. He said he isn’t upset that Reel Affirmations declined the film, saying festivals have a wide range of reasons for the types of films they choose to show.

    “I wish it would have gotten into all of them, but that’s unrealistic,” Howard said. “I don’t criticize them for not including me.”

    Frances, who said he raised the issue of the film not being shown in D.C. without consulting with Howard, said he and others he knows who know about the film are puzzled over why it has yet to be shown in the city where much of its story took place.

    “How can it be possible that Dr. Franklin E. Kameny and the Lavender Scare are not worthy of a single screening in this town? he asked. “This is the first documentary to tell the story of the 1953 Eisenhower Executive Order that banned gays and lesbians from federal employment for decades,” he said.

    David Mariner, executive director of the DC Center, which oversees Reel Affirmations’ operations, said he trusts Bush’s judgment on the selection of films and her decision not to give an explanation for declining to show “Lavender Scare.”

    I tried a few searches to see if I could identify the “some say” folks who are claiming that the “documentary about Eisenhower-era purge of gay federal employees was rejected because it focuses mainly on white gay cis men (i.e., the people who were targeted and fired)”, but I haven’t found anything yet, and certainly nothing substantiating the claim.

    If anyone can find anything substantive, please post it. Even a statement from one of the other 73 film festivals that elected not to show the film would be helpful, but something directly pertinent to the DC festival would be better evidence.

    Absent some reasonable substantiation of the claim, my bullshit detector is beeping away at this post.

    Reply
    • posted by Jorge on

      Absent some reasonable substantiation of the claim, my bullshit detector is beeping away at this post.

      Well and good. Too many people–excuse me, “too many people :P” lack the imagination and objectivity to consider more than one easy explanation.

      “Frances… said he and others he knows who know about the film are puzzled over why it has yet to be shown in the city where much of its story took place.”

      I’ll share some of where my own suspicion comes from. I had a handful of discussions with my best friend in college, a white male from the greater Chicago area, about movies or other art that touched on white racism. The white characters in these media were disgustingly racist in word and action. They also expressed racial grievances that did not receive much attention or discussion–my friend pointed this out to me in passing at least once but I missed the significance at the time. Even after such a play was screened on campus to a largely minority audience without incident, and all the cognitive dissonance that caused. To confront even the hint that oneself, or those one identifies with, is responsible for bigotry, that one bears even some responsibility for society turning hardships on you, is not an easy or a pleasant thing to do.

      Who are the out people in DC these days making cultural decisions such as these? Are they the Frank Kamenys , the white collar working class who combine mainstream presentation with limited power? Or are they the J Edgar Hoovers and Ken Mehlmans, Kameny’s bosses, machiavellians wielding the power to destroy and withholding the power to save? In other words, for the DC LGBTs who might show and watch the film, does it tell the story of their history as LGBT workers, or their villainy as DC elites? Of the emancipated who were freed, or the slaveholders who got theirs?

      Reply
      • posted by David Bauler on

        Frank Kamenys is certainly an interesting man in gay civil rights — pre Stonewall.
        I picked up a book on gay history by Eric Marcus (alas it was a used bookstore so the book was from the early 1990s) and their is an interview with Frank in the book.

        He may have been the first openly gay man to run for Congress. I think I remember reading that he ran for Congress as an Independent in the early 1970s — albeit for the DC District.

        Reply
  5. posted by David Bauler on

    1. No, Stephen is not calling for the government to abolish the film festival. But, he seems to insist that any public criticism or possible boycott violates the rights of a private business that wants to discriminate….but then he turns around and flip flops.

    Simply put; If gay couples are just suppose to find another baker, and not complain or anything, then why would Stephen seem to be making the argument that a gay film director being excluded from a film festival exhibition should complain? It may be a small point, but I just like to point out that Stephen gets a tad, mighty fuzzy about when it is acceptable for gay people to complain or criticize something that a private business or nonprofit does.

    2. From what I gather, some people within this one Mattachine Society might be saying that this documentary wasn’t shown at the DC film festival because it was, essentially, “too white”.
    This is not what the film festival said, and it does not appear that this is a official complaint from the Mattachine Society.

    3. I would be curious to know how many LGBT-themed documentaries get made in a year, how many get submitted to film festivals for exhibition and how many of them don’t get shown at said festivals?

    4. Beyond that, I am actually interested in gay history — and this documentary does sound interesting. Perhaps, Stephen could maybe help organize some house parties in the DC area or something like that. Maybe exhibit the film and raise money for a local charity?

    Reply

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