FARGO — More than 40 years after its release, a groundbreaking documentary about Pride celebrations will get a free showing in Fargo this week.
Raymond Rea, a film professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead and the founder of the FM LGBT Film Festival, explained why he chose “Gay USA” for June’s Pride Month screening.
“Specifically, this Pride Month recognizes the 50th year anniversary of the Stonewall riots,” Rea said. “One of the first things that happened after that was that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people — although the last two weren’t acknowledged — started to at first march and then parade.”
Directed by Arthur J. Bressan Jr. and released in 1978, “Gay USA” includes interviews and footage from several Gay Freedom Day parades around the country in June 1977. Rea said the film represents a moment before the commercialization of gay pride marches.
“Now it’s quite common for corporations to have floats in gay pride marches, but that wasn’t the case back then, so it’s just a really good way of kind of marking our history as a community,” he said.
But beyond its value as a vault of community memory, he said the screening will also demonstrate advancements in film restoration.
“In sort of a film nerd sense, it’s a really prime moment to show this film because Frameline Distribution, which is one of the best-known LGBTQ film distributors in the country, has teamed up with (the University of California, Los Angeles) to restore the film from the original 16 mm,” Rea said. “I teach LGBTQ film classes and for years and years I rented this film, a really bad VHS copy of the original 16 mm, so it just didn’t translate all that well. But now I think this print as restored by UCLA is actually made from the 16 mm so it should be beautiful. It should look really good.”
The screening is free and open to the public, in part because the planning committee wanted to be cognizant of the fact that marginalized people, like those in the LGBTQ community, tend to have fewer resources available to them.
“It was just really, really important for us to be aware of unbalanced economic situations for people who have marginalized identities,” Rea said.
The Fargo Theatre screening comes ahead of Fargo-Moorhead Pride, taking place this year Aug. 8-11, and September's 11th annual FM LGBT Film Festival. Those interested in attending any or all of the five original screenings can visit fmlgbtff.com later in the summer for ticket and lineup information, and more information about Pride events is available at fmpride.com.
“Submissions are rolling in and once again, we have a really good selection of national and international films to choose between,” Rea said about this year's film festival.
But he stressed that filmgoers by no means need to identify as part of the LGBTQ community to enjoy “Gay USA” this week or the festival this fall.
“It’s always a good time where the local LGBTQ community gets together," he said. "But beyond that, and I always say this, if you yourself are not under that umbrella but if you simply like really high-quality, cutting-edge new film, this festival is for you."
If you go
What: "Gay USA" documentary screening
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 26
Where: The Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway N.
Cost: Free and open to the public