Vito revisited the book towards the end of the 1980s, incorporating some more recent achievements of the time, like the Academy Award winning documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk and beloved LGBTQ indie classics like Donna Deitch’s Desert Hearts and Bill Sherwood’s Parting Glances. (There is, naturally, at least one Letterboxd list of all the films in this revised edition.)
When The Celluloid Closet landed in my hands, I had been miserably stumbling along in college, and in life, for the previous five years. Vito’s book was the catalyst for my coming out to myself as queer (I wanted to see all those movies he wrote about) and for coming into the LGBTQ community (I imagined everyone else might want to see those movies too).
And so, despite having zero experience in how to do it, I started a weekly queer film series on campus, which brought hundreds of people out to the movies each Wednesday night. While there were certainly LGBTQ stories being told on screen in 1986, it was still an era where these films were much harder to access. Some were shown on television or available on VHS tape, but often these films had to be seen at film festivals or arthouse theaters.
The very first films I programmed in that series included some titles that remain among my favorite LGBTQ movies of all time: the aforementioned Mädchen in Uniform; the wonderfully romantic, 1968 French schoolgirl drama Therese & Isabelle; and jumping ahead to the indie gay films of the 1980s, Arthur J. Bressan’s devastating AIDS drama, Buddies (1985).
A few years later (with my University of Minnesota film studies BA in hand), I jumped in to become co-director of Frameline in San Francisco, the oldest and largest LGBTQ film festival in the world, and carved out a queer corner of the internet for movie lovers, co-founding the massive LGBTQ movie database, PopcornQ (aka “the gay IMDb”) as part of the world’s first major LGBTQ website, PlanetOut.
Along the way, I also worked as a queer-film critic, queer-film historian, queer-film collector, queer-archival researcher, queer-consulting producer (most recently on Sam Feder’s acclaimed overview of trans lives on screen, Disclosure), and spent a decade driving the marketing efforts of the oldest and largest LGBTQ film distributor in North America (Wolfe Video). And I made some films myself. (Yes, there is a Letterboxd list!)