Judge Brett Cullum takes a look at the latest film chronicling a serious threat to the lives and freedom of gays and lesbians living under oppression.
"Coming out invites bullets."
Dangerous Living—Coming Out in the Developing World has been a staple of the Gay and Lesbian film festival circuit for the past two years, but has rarely been seen in any other venue until this DVD. The 2003 documentary comes from the same director and producers who brought us Before Stonewall and After Stonewall. Director John Scagliotti tackles a heartbreaking subject through a series of "talking head" interviews mixed with documentary footage and narration by Janeane Garofalo (Mystery Men). It is a moving and powerful portrait of the struggle of gays and lesbians in parts of the world where their very existence is still regarded as criminal and dangerous. These are the stories of men and women who face not only discrimination and the angry ire of fundamentalists, but who often find themselves imprisoned or put to death for being themselves. It's the perfect film to show anyone who questions why Pride Parades or the visibility of the gay community is important. For gay audiences it will prove inspirational, and for straight audiences Dangerous Living—Coming Out in the Developing World will enlighten and inform.
First Run Features has provided a library of these kind of titles, and they should be applauded for bringing films like Dangerous Living—Coming Out in the Developing World to the DVD format. You can't judge them by technical merits, because the sound and picture quality take a back seat to the film's message. The transfer is fullscreen, and it looks fine for a documentary. Several sources are mixed together, including news footage, video taped-on-the-scene segments, and recent interviews. Technically the picture is often subpar, and the sound is rather thin and tinny. But you won't notice, because it's the meat of what the documentary is saying that carries the title.
John Scagliotti has spent his career creating a history of the gay and lesbian community with Before Stonewall and After Stonewall. What Dangerous Living—Coming Out in the Developing World does is take him to the next level of chronicling current affairs. Really, this documentary is more concerned with a movement that is happening now in the Middle East and throughout the world, in countries where fundamentalism is the entire culture of nations. Traditionally we see America as a nation divided between conservative and liberal, but in many places there is only one party, often inescapably affiliated with religion, that rules and dictates morality. Dangerous Living—Coming Out in the Developing World chronicles how American gay culture has spread worldwide, and marks Scagliotti's first foray into global gay history.
Extras include a lot of additional interviews, some text notes on Human Rights Watch, and biographies. Most of it works well to support the main feature, and it helps add length to the main program's brief running time. Most interesting to me was the interview with the director himself. For the first time John Scagliotti gets to talk about all of his projects, and discusses what it is like making these films. There's some political interviews with Barney Frank and Howard Dean, but they seem self-congratulatory, as if they were running for "favorite politician in the gay community." It's nice to see this much support for the feature, and First Run Films has assembled a pretty attractive package for the title.
If you enjoyed Before Stonewall and After Stonewall, then Dangerous Living—Coming Out in the Developing World is an easy choice to complete the trilogy. It's a "must-see" for anyone who is a member of the GLBT community, and should prove interesting for its supporters. To me it's a powerful example of what the DVD format can offer aside from big blockbusters with impressive transfers and speaker-melting sound. It's an important movie that wouldn't last a week in a megaplex theatre, but which deserves to be seen by as many people as it possibly can. Seek it out, and learn a little about the world. Be grateful we live in a country where being yourself is allowed and celebrated. Next time join the parade, because there are millions around the world who can't.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
• Footage from the Cairo 52 Trial
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