'Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives' at Sag Harbor Cinema - 27 East

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'Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives' at Sag Harbor Cinema

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A scene from the 1977 documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” COURTESY SAG HARBOR CINEMA

A scene from the 1977 documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” COURTESY SAG HARBOR CINEMA

A scene from the 1977 documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” COURTESY SAG HARBOR CINEMA

A scene from the 1977 documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” COURTESY SAG HARBOR CINEMA

A scene from the 1977 documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” COURTESY SAG HARBOR CINEMA

A scene from the 1977 documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” COURTESY SAG HARBOR CINEMA

A scene from the 1977 documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” COURTESY SAG HARBOR CINEMA

A scene from the 1977 documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” COURTESY SAG HARBOR CINEMA

An image of The Mariposa Film Group from the 1977 documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” COURTESY SAG HARBOR CINEMA

An image of The Mariposa Film Group from the 1977 documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” COURTESY SAG HARBOR CINEMA

authorStaff Writer on Jun 21, 2024

In celebration of Pride month, on Thursday, June 27, at 6 p.m. Sag Harbor Cinema will screen the pioneering 1977 documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” Restored and remastered for its 30th anniversary by the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive, “Word Is Out” was the first feature-length documentary about lesbian and gay identity that was made by gay filmmakers.

Oscar winning co-director Rob Epstein (“The Times of Harvey Milk,” “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt,” “The Celluloid Closet,” “Howl”) will join in a Q&A following the screening of the film. Also joining the conversation is drummer Richard Dworkin, member of the popular 1970s San Francisco band Buena Vista, who is featured in the film.

This trailblazing document of queer oral history features a gallery of candid interviews with a range of prominent activists and thinkers, with highlights including Elsa Gidlow, the founder of boho community Druid Heights north of San Francisco; Dennis Chiu describing what it was like to be sneered at growing up as both queer and Chinese; a tender monologue from experimental filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky; and an extraordinary moment with Betty (now Achebe) Powell, who voices concern about being the only Black lesbian participating in the film. “Word Is Out” quickly became an emblem of the emerging gay rights movement of the 1970s. In 2022, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

“The intimate, tender quality of the film, the candor of the men and women that participated in the interviews and the limpidity of the filmmaking make watching “Word Is Out’ today a very moving experience. And a refreshingly nonideological one,” says the cinema’s artistic director Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan. “I am thrilled to share this landmark documentary with our audience. It was a real discovery for me, and I am grateful that David Bohnett brought it to my attention.”

“Nearly half a century ago, in 1977, ‘Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives’ captured audiences across the U.S. when it appeared in movie theaters and on television,” says Epstein. “This was the first feature-length documentary about lesbian and gay identity crafted by a collective of queer filmmakers, of which I was one — we called ourselves The Mariposa Film Group (because our office was on Mariposa Street). It’s an honor to show the restored version of the film at the Sag Harbor Cinema in celebration of our collective history, and I look forward to being there for the screening, representing the Mariposa Film Group.”

Each filmmaker arrived at the project with a different level of filmmaking experience. “Word Is Out” was initially conceived by Peter Adair, who later recruited his sister Nancy (a taxi driver), emerging filmmakers Lucy Massie Phenix and Veronica Selver, Andrew Brown, and a teenaged Rob Epstein. Epstein responded to Adair’s ad in a local San Francisco magazine for “a nonsexist person to work on a documentary film on gay life. No experience necessary, just insane dedication and a cooperative spirit.”

Over five years, Mariposa conducted hundreds of interviews with subjects between 18 and 79 years old, from the Bay Area across the United States, resulting in 26 characters featured in the film. The result was broadcast in three parts on public television.

Tickets for the program are available at sagharborcinema.org. Sag Harbor Cinema is at 90 Main Street in Sag Harbor.

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