DEKKOO DISPATCH 047 – ‘DESERT MIGRATION’

Title – ‘Desert Migration

Director – Daniel F. Cardone

Release Date – 2015

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Derek Jarman. Keith Haring. Freddie Mercury. Rock Hudson. Liberace. Michel Foucualt. Leigh Bowery. David Wojnarowicz. Brad Davis. Perry Ellis. Arthur Ashe. Rudolf Nureyev.

Today is December 1st – World AIDS Day. Today we recall and mourn all of our role models, friends, family members, and lovers that have passed away far too early from HIV/AIDS. It’s also a day for us to raise awareness of all the work that needs to be done to erase the virus from the face of the earth. An estimated 36.7 million people are living with the disease and almost 5,000 will contract it today. We’ve made great progress in education, treatment, and prevention, but there’s still so much more to be done.

On Dekkoo we’re bringing you the documentary ‘Desert Migration‘ by Daniel F. Cardone. An official selection of Outfest and Frameline this film takes a deep look at 13 older gay men living with HIV in Palm Springs, CA. From morning medications to afternoon meditations we get to experience their daily routines and thoughts. Half of the people living with HIV in the United States are over the age of 50 and much of this generation are gay men whose lives were saved by antiretroviral treatments in the 90s and are now coping with both that intense medication and plain old age. Palm Springs is not only a haven for Los Angeles denizens desperate for a break from busy city life, but it’s also a mecca for gay men. They come for the beautiful scenery and lively gay social life and stay for the exact same reasons. Once you’re there it’s really hard to go back to city life. It’s so peaceful and serene and warm!

All of the men in this documentary are heroes. They’ve overcome insurmountable odds to still be alive and the fact that most of them have a positive outlook on life is astounding. This film isn’t an advertisement for Palm Springs, but they all credit the oasis in helping them find joy and meaning in their lives. All of their stories are similar yet different. Eric wants to find a boyfriend who doesn’t embraces his identity as an HIV-positive gay man. Steven is looking for any sort of relationship. Joel loves being healthy enough to go back to work. Doug is most at home in the gym cruising the guys and trying to look his best. I found this documentary to be incredibly uplifting and inspiring. The cinematography of the desert was stunning and made me yearn to be back in Palm Springs’ warm and loving embrace. While the film is incredibly inspiring, it doesn’t have an agenda it’s trying to push beyond the message that life finds a way. A way to cope, to rebuild, and most of all to have hope.

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Watch it with: A few close friends

Mix it with: A glass of white wine

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 028 – ‘VITO’

Title – ‘Vito

Director – Jeffrey Schwartz

Release Date – 2011

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Today we at Dekkoo are paying tribute to Vito Russo: activist, author, academic, film fanatic, and most importantly a friend and father-figure to every LGBTQ member of our community. Jeffrey Schwartz’s 2011 film ‘Vito‘ is a stirring tribute to this legendary trailblazer of queer cinema and HIV/AIDS activism.

Growing up and browsing the shelves at Blockbuster I’d always walk by a tattered old looking DVD entitled ‘The Celluloid Closet’. Once I finally had made my way through most of the sexy films I’d been dying to rent I finally checked it out one night. The amount of queer stories that had to be hidden underneath various guises through time was sobering of what I had been accustomed to given my young age. ‘The Celluloid Closet’ was based on Vito Russo’s novel of the same name published in 1981 with the subtitle “Homosexuality in the Movies”. It woke people up to queer tropes like the predatory lesbian and the sissy homosexual. Vito truly believed that these tropes were perpetuating the oppression of gay people and that media needed to change in order for society to change. Vito wasn’t just sitting at home writing though. He went on college tours lecturing about his work and about queer cinema in general.

After publishing ‘The Celluloid Closet’ Vito Russo went on to form the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. That’s right, Vito Russo formed GLAAD! They’re the ones that to this day keep a very close eye on everything happening in media around the world and hold them accountable for their actions. And as much as I get annoyed with how much they hit me up for cash, they’ve done some great stuff like issuing a Studio Responsibility Index that ranks the major Hollywood studios by the quantity, quality, and content of LGBTQ representation in the films they produce.

Vito also left a big imprint on HIV/AIDS activism in the 80s through his involvement in the Gay Activists Alliance & ACT UP, his creation of a gay TV series called ‘Our Time’, and his participation in the 1989 Academy Award-winning documentary ‘Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt’. He told the story of his lover Jeffrey Sevcik who passed away from his battle with AIDS. The directors of ‘Our Time’ are Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman. Besides directing masterpieces like ‘The Times of Harvey Milk’ and ‘Word is Out’ they also were the ones to lovingly direct ‘The Celluloid Closet’ after Vito had passed away from his own battle with AIDS.

I’ve left you with a very basic skeleton of what Vito Russo did with his life, but when you watch ‘Vito‘ you’ll actually see his whole body and hopefully see even deeper.

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Watch it with:  A group of friends who appreciate gay heroes!

Mix it with: Beers!

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