Knowledge isn’t power; context is. That’s the timeless lesson that Vito Russo, the fearless queer activist and devoted film buff, taught us. A cofounder of ACT UP! and GLAAD, Russo recognized that politicians wired to voter perceptions — rather than inspired to do the right thing — had to be hit with more than just facts. As chronicler of Hollywood’s destructive, decades-long depiction of homosexuals in a lecture tour he adapted into the essential 1981 book The Celluloid Closet, Russo embarrassed L.A. power-brokers by exposing the thinly masked loathing that permeated mainstream movies. Celebrating Russo’s extraordinary legacy (he died of AIDS in 1990) and his extensive and intimate connection to the Castro, Frameline36 — the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival — lifts off tonight at 7 at the Castro Theatre with Jeffrey Schwarz’s galvanizing documentary, Vito. The festival continues for 11 days at three theaters with a program of unequivocal salutes (a retrospective of 1990s New Queer Cinema landmarks, including All Over Me and The Living End) and implicit nods (essentially, every other film) to the brave souls who took the torch from Vito Russo.
June 14-24, 2012