The Out List may sound overly minimalistic or even dull on paper, the results are contrarily electric, riveting, and anything but ordinary.
The Out List (Frameline37 Review)
In The Out List—the newest entry in the forward-thinking HBO interview series that started with The Black List Volumes 1-3 and The Latino List—director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders sits both high and low-profile members of the gay community in front of a camera and asks them to share their life experiences, being members of the LGBT community. They’re framed squarely against a simple grey background, and they talk directly into the camera. It’s as simple as that, and though it may sound overly minimalistic or even dull on paper, the results are contrarily electric, riveting, and anything but ordinary.
The group of 16 interviewees range from “out” icons like Ellen Degeneres, who recalls her controversial coming-out which almost ruined her career, to Lupe Valdez, Dallas County’s first ever lesbian Sherriff. The anecdotes—some achingly poignant, some funny, some tragic, all bracingly honest—link up to create an intimate and vividly personal snapshot of LGBT America. Lady Bunny, a seasoned drag queen who’s seen it all, drops strikingly real knowledge when she insists that wearing women’s clothing has nothing to do with women at all—“It’s about wearing the clothes that I like to wear.” Christine Quinn, the first openly gay Speaker of the New York City Council, is a rush of attitude and boisterous conviction, articulating her frustrations about marriage equality with furious wit, referring to marriage as a tradition that’s been around “since they made dirt.”
Greenfield-Sanders employs the same two-way mirror/camera configuration that Errol Morris did in The Fog of War which allows the subjects to look directly at the camera while simultaneously seeing the interviewer, as if there’s no camera between them at all. The effect is stunning—it feels like they’re looking right into our eyes, which makes the interviews that much more penetrating and real. The clarity and immediacy of Greenfield-Sanders’ images make them feel like moving portraits, and they should—he’s one of the most accomplished photographers in the world. He’s done portraits of Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter, and regularly contributes to Vanity Fair, so it goes without saying that he knows how to make people look good.
The hope is that this film will help to further familiarize our country with the LGBT community and push us toward the ultimate realization of one of our founding principles—equality. Like Neil Patrick Harris says in the film: “You can’t just put the gay in a little gay box anymore.”
The Out List airs tonight on HBO at 9:30.