For our curation of Hulu's Documentaries page this week, we're presenting two separate themes: LGBT Youth and Iraq in Perspective. The first is a reaction to the recent spate of LGBT youth suicides, and also ties into this week's National Coming Out Day, October 11, while the second uses the anniversary of the declaration of war on Iraq on October 16 as an opportunity to reflect on the soldiers who risked their lives there.
EDITOR'S NOTE: "indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs" is a regular column spotlighting the iW-curated selections on Hulu's Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. iW selections appear in the carousel at the top of the page and under "Featured Content" in the center. Be sure to check out these great non-fiction projects each week.
As the head of NewFest: The New York LGBT Film Festival for many years, I was often able to bring stories about LGBT youth to NYC's gay community, which is more aware than the larger general public about the risk this population has of suffering the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse of bullies, which sometimes unfortunately leads to suicide. The recent news coverage about this issue, and its dissemination over social media, has brought much needed wider exposure. I hope this mainstream exposure can continue in some small part through the spotlight Hulu can provide in showcasing these two docs.
"Out in the Silence" comes from directors and life partners Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson. When Wilson decided to place an announcement in his rural hometown's newspaper that he was marrying his partner, the result was a series of letters to the editor condemning the listing and the men's relationship. It also resulted in a plea for help from Kathy, the mother of 16-year-old CJ, whose coming out in school led to ostracism, hazing, and threats of violence. Returning to conservative Oil City, PA, Wilson and Hamer set out to meet his critics and to try to help CJ deal with the homophobic bullying he's experiencing.
After Erin Davies discovers that her rainbow-stickered VW Beetle has been vandalized with homophobic slurs, she decides to use this as an opportunity to spread awareness about hate crimes. Traveling around the US and Canada in her car, still defaced with the words "fag" and "u r gay," she visits other LGBT individuals who have experienced more severe abuse and learns their stories during her two month trip documented in "Fagbug."
Iraq in Perspective:
While combat operations did not begin until March 2003, the Congress' resolution to authorize military force against Iraq was signed on October 16, 2002. While President Obama declared an end to combat operations this past August 31, the legacy of the conflict remains. Regardless of their filmmakers' politics, the four curated films below share a concern with the soldiers and the impact that the war has had on them.
On May 1, 2003 President Bush gave his infamous speech that major combat operations in Iraq would cease. Seven months later, in "Mission Accomplished," a celebrated BBC journalist travels to Iraq for a first-hand look at the new Iraq. Sean Langan speaks with civilians, representatives of the growing insurgent movement, and US soldiers, gaining fascinating insight into the varied perspectives of life post liberation/occupation, and how the soldiers made sense of it on the ground.
"Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie" takes as its inspiration legendary USO frontman Bob Hope as comedian Jeffrey Ross participates in Drew Carey's USO comedy show to entertain the troops in 2003's newly liberated Iraq. Focusing more on the behind-the-scenes of the comedians' experiences of the aftermath of the invasion of Baghdad than the performances, the film gives their impressions of being in a war zone, meeting soldiers, and hearing their stories.
Civia Tamarkin's "Jerabek" focuses on the story of the titular family who lose their 18-year-old son Ryan to Iraq's battlefield in 2004 and must face their other son Nick's decision to enlist. The family finds strange comfort in honoring Ryan's sacrifice by decking their house in Marine Corp regalia, perhaps unconsciously influencing Nick's decision. Fellow Marines who served with Ryan give their own impressions of their fallen brother-at-arms, and about the challenges faced during their tours of duty.
In "When I Came Home," director Dan Lohaus turns his camera on Iraq War veteran Herold Noel, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but denied veteran's benefits and forced to live in his car. As the film shows, Noel's story is not a unique case, with the shameful history of homeless veterans going back from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting against bureaucracy to claim their rights. While Noel tries to get attention for the issue in the media, he faces a frustrating uphill struggle to make a difference and affect real change.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, and recently co-produced Cameron Yates’ feature documentary “The Canal Street Madam.” Follow him on Twitter @1basil1 and @CanalStMadamDoc and visit his blog what (not) to doc.