|Out of the Past
OUT OF THE PAST, a surprise audience winner at the 1998
Sundance Film Festival, is an ambitious undertaking. In just over an
hour, filmmaker Jeff Dupre examines the story of Kelli Peterson, a Utah
high school student who formed a Gay/Straight Alliance at her high school
and then had to do battle with local and state governments who would
rather abolish all clubs than allow a group of gay and lesbian teenagers
to meet (although the group was in compliance with a state law that
was passed favoring religious organizations meeting after hours in
In a stroke of inspiration, Dupre compares and contrasts Kelli's
journey with those of several pioneers in history. As Kelli struggles
to come out to her family and friends, the audience is introduced
to Puritan cleric Michael Wigglesworth (voiced by Stephen Spinella)
with contemporary commentary by Harvard professor Rev. Peter J. Gomes.
Wigglesworth's diary reveals his attraction to men and his struggles
to integrate that aspect of himself with his desires to serve God.
As Kelli finds a partner, Dupre focuses on the "Boston marriage"
(a quaint term for 19th Century lesbian relationships) of author
Sarah Orne Jewett and philanthropist Annie Adams Fields (vocalized
by Gwyneth Paltrow and Cherry Jones, respectively). Further highlighting
the activism of Peterson as she takes on the local school board and
the state legislature are the stories of Henry Gerber (Edward Norton),
perhaps the first person to form a gay rights organization in the USA
and black activist Bayard Rustin (Leland Gantt) whose homosexuality
has caused many to downplay the pivotal role he played in the civil
rights struggles of the 1960s. Kelli Peterson proved to be an unlikely
but strong leader who was merely seeking a forum for kids to have
a safe space to meet and talk. This documentary is informative but
not preachy. While it will probably not convince the right-wing
conservatives of the world, it provides a valuable lesson in civil
disobedience and fighting for that in which one believes.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.