In 1969, police raided a Greenwich Village gay bar called Stonewall and for the first time, the patrons decided to fight back. The riot is considered the birth of the gay rights movement by many, and Vito Russo, then a 23-year old film student, discovered his activist voice there.
With captivating archival footage and interviews as well as recent talks with his closest friends, VITO captures the passion of Russo alongside the progress of the gay rights movement. He was integral to the formation of three of the cause’s major organizations: GAA (Gay Activist Alliance), GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), which combined to support the GLBT rights revolution. Russo’s love for movies also played a role in his activism; his 1981 book “The Celluloid Closet” was the first critique of Hollywood’s portrayal of homosexuals in film. As the AIDS crisis unfolded in the 1980s, Vito led important protests against President Ronald Reagan’s refusal to act swiftly on the virus epidemic—an effort that Russo continued with courage and high spirits until his death from AIDS in 1990.
VITO is an inspiring account of an outspoken and driven activist whose life has affected millions. VITO is a strong reminder that the fight for LGBT equality is far from over and must continue.
New York native Jeffrey Schwarz is president and CEO of Automat Pictures, which produces film industry media material as well as TV shows and films. He has directed such award-winning films as WRANGLER: ANATOMY OF AN ICON and SPINE TINGLER! THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY, which screened at the 2008 DIFF. His first film job was as an apprentice editor on THE CELLULOID CLOSET, an adaptation of Vito Russo’s seminal book.