GFF 2013: Vito
The life of the late Vito Russo, an activist for both LBGT rights and AIDS awareness, has particular resonance for cinephiles, being that he was also a film historian and the author of The Celluloid Closet. That famous, influential 1981 book – later adapted to documentary form in 1995 – examined the history of how Hollywood films have portrayed gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters, whether through coded subtleties, realistic portrayals or cruel stereotypes.
Jeffrey Schwarz’s documentary on the man conveys the astonishingly full life Vito had before his tragic succumbing to AIDS in 1990, and really makes you feel the loss of a figure that would have been a great voice to still have in the cultural landscape today. What remains of that great voice in archive form is a huge part of the film’s success, with audio and video recordings of Vito’s ruminations and autobiographical anecdotes offering a Senna-like means of narration, interspersed with an also interesting set of talking heads. The documentary also includes some fascinating clips from films whose cinematic legacy Vito could attest to having shaped. [Josh Slater-Williams]