Benefit Screening of BEFORE HOMOSEXUALS July 22nd, 4pm at Latchis Theater, Brattleboro VT

11 07 2017

 

While local Guilford, VT, filmmaker John Scagliotti was news director at WBCN Boston in 1975 he was arrested by the vice squad and charged with “soliciting to commit unnatural and lascivious acts.” A jury dressed in festive St. Patrick’s Day attire quickly brought a verdict: guilty as charged. Scagliotti fought that conviction all the way to the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, and with the help of the ACLU, the initial ruling was overturned.

It was a landmark decision for gays and lesbians, and for personal freedom.

Representative Barney Frank at the time told Gay Community News: “This is binding. In effect, it has amended the state’s laws against unnatural acts… Private consensual, homosexual sex is not convictable.”

In his latest film, Before Homosexuals: The Prequel to Before Stonewall, Scagliotti brings the Boston arrest full-circle while ruminating on a bit of ancient graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia at the start of the film. Standing over this affirmation of same-sex love etched in stone some 2,500 years ago, he ponders the naturalness of homosexuality among the ancient Greeks, in contrast to his arrest and conviction in the US in 1975.

Now Scagliotti is bringing his latest film home to Brattleboro for the Vermont Premiere. Presented by the Brattleboro Film Festival and benefiting local non-profit Kopkind’s CineSLAM LGBT Short Film Festival, the film takes us on a tour of erotic history, poetry and visual art expressing same-sex desire from ancient times to Victorian crimes. It is a searching, thoughtful, humorously edgy point-of-view documentary, in which Scagliotti (who received an Emmy Award as a producer of Before Stonewall) explores how the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the growth of LGBT political power in the decades that followed cleared the path for artists and scholars to re-discover the pre-20th century history of same-sex desire.

In addition to traveling the world to tell this story, Scagliotti drew on talent from the Brattleboro area for many aspects of the film. Michael Hanish (Guilford) shot a lot of the principal cinematography. Matt Bucy (White River Junction), who was recently recognized in American Cinematographer for his lighting and camera work, was the film’s digital colorist. Dave Snyder (Guilford) was the film’s Director of Recording from his studio Guilford Sound, where many local voices were recorded, including those of Suzanne d’Corsey (Brattleboro), as the poet Sappho, and Guilford Selectman Richard Wizansky, as literary giant Oscar Wilde. Many local artisans also contributed to the film. Bookbinder Susan Bonthron (Guilford) created an intricate tunnel book to visualize a lesbian love poem from Imperial China. Photographer Liz LaVorgna (Brattleboro) with the help of HB Lozito (Brattleboro) organized and shot a beautiful re-enactment of Natalie Clifford Barney’s Paris salon at the Latchis Theater. The Belden Hill Boogie Band (Jeremy Gold, Susan Bonthron, Dave Hall, Patty Carpenter, and Joan Peters) composed an eloquent rendition of “I’m Goin’ Home” for the film’s section on Walt Whitman’s influence on the early call for gay liberation.

Scagliotti said, “I can’t wait to show this film in Brattleboro, where so many people have contributed so much to making this film such a beautiful piece of history.”

Scagliotti has been creating ground-breaking media for over four decades. After his stint in Boston, where he and his partner, the late Andrew Kopkind, produced pioneering radio documentaries as well as America’s first gay and lesbian commercial radio program, Scagliotti moved to New York City, where he received his Master’s Degree in television and film at NYU. His first film, Stuff of Dreams, focusing on the Monteverdi Players’ production of The Tempest in Guilford in the 1970s, is a magical meditation on the role of art in forging community. In 1986, he produced the historic Before Stonewall (PBS) and later created America’s first gay and lesbian television series, In the Life, which ran for 21 years, also on PBS.

In 1994, after Kopkind’s death, Scagliotti moved his base of operations to his home studio in Guilford, VT. From there he made After Stonewall (PBS, 1999), Oliver Button Is a Star (PBS, 2001), and Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World (Logo, 2003). He co-founded the Kopkind Colony in 1999, which, among other things, holds a summer filmmakers workshop in collaboration with the Center for Independent Documentary. In 2015 Marlboro College awarded Scagliotti an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of his service to the gay, lesbian, and allied communities.

Scagliotti will be in Brattleboro to present Before Homosexuals: The Prequel to Before Stonewall on July 22, 2017, at 4:00 PM at the Latchis Theatre. After the screening he will be joined by members of the crew for a lively Q&A session. Tickets are available online at http://www.beforehomosexuals.com/screenings

This film was produced in association with Boston’s Center for Independent Documentary; major funding was provided by LEF Foundation, located in Cambridge.


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