Reel in the Closet

DIRECTOR: Stu Maddux

World Premiere

Expected to attend: Director Stu Maddux, Subject Daniel Nicoletta, Producer Tish Gettys

Documentarian Stu Maddux (Gen Silent, Frameline35 Audience Award Winner) shifts his lens to focus on rare and important early film and video records of LGBTQ life in America. Reel in the Closet brings to light a trove of historical footage from an era when gay life was mostly left undocumented—fascinating and often poignant moving images from the 1930s through the AIDS epidemic, which are at risk of being lost to history without the efforts of the archivists who work to find, preserve, and catalogue them.

Home movies of gay house parties and vacation reels from the 1940s reveal the joyful exuberance and comfortable ease of social gatherings that would have been possible to witness only behind closed doors. A film shot in Mona’s Candle Light, a lesbian “bohemian bar” in North Beach, features performances from a sultry chanteuse and a woman in a smart tan suit. Later clips include works made by an early gay video-art collective, first-person documentation of Mattachine Society and ACT UP political activities, taped television news stories covering Anita Bryant and the Briggs Initiative, and raw news footage of the White Night riots in San Francisco.

Archivists interviewed in the film believe that large amounts of amateur documentation of LGBTQ life—whether stored in damp attics or discarded by careless heirs—has already been lost. And as the celluloid on which this important history was captured begins to degrade, their work to preserve this important history is as important now as it will ever be.

— Michael LoPresti

AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: D319

Co-presented by:
Bay Area Lesbian History Archives Project
GLBT Historical Society
The James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center
Spectrum LGBT, a program of The Spahr Center

Get the Frameline Festival App

A festival in your pocket

FilmFest is a simple, easy to use pocket guide to all the films in this year's festival.

Frameline36 app available now!