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7 Dan Savage-Approved Documentaries You Should Watch Right Now

7 Dan Savage-Approved Documentaries You Should Watch Right Now

Dan Savage has teamed up with SundanceNow Doc Club — a SVOD service dedicated solely to documentaries — to curate a collection of seven fantastic documentaries. “Dan Savage Favorites” is now available at DocClub.com, and one of Savage’s selections, “Sex Crimes at the Vatican,” will be available digitally for the first time ever.

“Documentaries have always been the best source for the kind of stories narrative films won’t touch,” Savage said. “It’s a source for complicated profiles about underrepresented people, as well as the most direct platform available to activists with a message to spread. And thanks to its rising popularity over the past several years, the form has also emerged from the long shadow of its boring, tweedy, self-serious reputation—which is lucky for me, since my taste in films (and journalism, TV, music, theater, and porn) has always drawn me toward things that are, for lack of a better word, enjoyable. My favorite documentaries engage the same pleasure center as every other form of entertainment, with the added bonus of knowing—or trusting, anyway—that what I’m seeing is part of the world I’m actually living in.”

The seven films featured in the collection, alongside Savage’s personal notes on each of his selections, are:

  • BROTHER OUTSIDER (2002)
    Nancy D. Kates and Bennett Singer’s documentary on Bayard Rustin, best-remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.

“Black and gay by birth, Socialist and pacifist by conviction—no one would accuse Bayard Rustin of taking the easy way through American life in the mid-20th century. Nonetheless, as this excellent doc reveals, he was a crucial figure in the civil rights movement and close advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr., until the opponents of that movement used Rustin’s sexuality as a wedge to discredit him.”

  • CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY (2007)
    Tina Mascara and Guido Santi intimately depict the love story between British writer, Christopher Isherwood (whose book ‘The Berlin Stories’ inspired the musical and film Cabaret) and Don Bachardy, American portrait artist.

“The stories of long-term gay relationships—like the one between the great writer Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, which lasted 30 years—have gone largely untold. This has left lots of straight people with the impression that gay people are all ravenous sluts with no capacity for abiding love (and therefore a threat to the family), and lots of gay people with a short supply of recognizable models for how to build lasting marriages. There’s very little about Chris and Don’s love story that feels like conventional romance, except for the way they clearly felt about each other.”

  • GRAMERCY STORIES (2008)

Joyce Chopra’s inspiring look inside a unique residence in Manhattan, which provides a safe home for 25 gay and transgender teenagers who have experienced violence at home and on the streets. Told from their candid, often witty perspective, the film follows these courageous kids as they strive to remake their lives.

“Gramercy Stories offers important insight into the lives of a group of gay and transgender teenagers, displaced and mistreated at home and by society. Manhattan’s Gramercy Residence created a place where these youths can feel safe and be accepted.”

  • HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE (2012)

David France’s poignant story of two coalitions – ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) – whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

“The activism of ACT UP and TAG—in the face of, lest we forget, ignorance and hostility from the public and blatant antagonism from the U.S. government—is the only reason we’ve been able to spend the past 18 years talking about HIV/AIDS as anything other than a certain death sentence for gay and straight people alike. This movie provides a great, if incomplete, look at how they waged the war.”

  • PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (2011)

Andrew Rossi gains unprecedented access to The New York Times newsroom, which yields a complex view of the transformation of a media landscape fraught with both peril and opportunity.

“Though I’m best known as a loudmouth sex columnist, the only reason I got into that line of work was my insane, abiding love of newspapers. The recent death of David Carr sent my back to this incredible snapshot of The New York Times at a critical point of transition. Carr strides through the film like a giant, working (and typing) amazingly hard while he and his fellow staffers try to figure out what it means to be the paper of record when the internet keeps inventing new forms of competition while eroding the financial rewards of the old way of doing business.”

  • PLAYING THE PART (1995)

Mitch McCabe’s angst-ridden yet humorous portrait of her efforts to confront her family redefines the coming of age story in the form of a hilarious documentary.

“I think we can all relate to a film like this and the ways we can allow family expectations to affect our lives. This film examines the lives of the people we sometimes pretend to be in order to cope with family pressures. Mitch uses her documentary film as her path to come out to her parents.”

  • SEX CRIMES AND THE VATICAN (2006)

Panorama investigates a secret Vatican document known as the “Crimen Sollicitationis”, which established a guideline for handling allegations of child abuse, homosexuality and bestiality within the Catholic Church and was enforced for 20 years by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became the Pope.

“Having grown up in a staunch Catholic family, I was shocked—shocked!—to discover that the church has been accused of less-than-savory relationships with certain of the younger members of its flock. I couldn’t possibly comment, but this short installment of the Panorama series offers a reasonably good encapsulation of the Pope’s complicity.”

Watch them all here.

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