The Celluloid Closet (1995)

The Celluloid Closet is a 1995 American documentary film directed and written by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.  The film is based on Vito Russo’s 1981 book The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies, and on lecture and film clip presentations he gave in 1972–1982.

This documentary highlights the historical contexts that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders have occupied in cinema history, and shows the evolution of the entertainment industry’s role in shaping perceptions of LGBT figures. The issues addressed include secrecy – which initially defined homosexuality – as well as the demonization of the homosexual community with the advent of AIDS, and finally the shift toward acceptance and positivity in the modern era.

Fascinating…a beautifully and thoughtfully made film that touches on many areas of human sexuality and human expression beyond the obvious…a vital and artful piece of work…Celluloid Closet is a nonfiction film that presses more emotional buttons than many a manipulative melodrama and seems of equal interest to those of every conceivable sexual identity. It’s not only about how people see each other and see themselves: it’s also about being human and the joy and pain and confusion that strange condition entails.” – Tom Shales, The Washington Post

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