New Documentary on “The Advocate” Magazine is Up for an Emmy Award

Written by | Entertainment, Screen

"The Advocate" documentary

A documentary about The Advocate will compete next month for Outstanding Special Class Special at the Daytime Emmy Awards.

The magazine has chronicled the LGBTQ struggle for equality since 1967. Director Billy Clift uses the outlet’s 50th anniversary to tell two stories concurrently. One is the path out of second-class citizenship for LGBTQ Americans. The other is that of The Advocate, who reported those struggles when mainstream media would not.

The doc is called Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate Celebrates 50 Years. For director Billy Clift, it represents the fulfillment of his dream to make movies. But he says that if the film does its job, it will inspire future generations to do the same. Dozens of celebrities, including Cleve Jones, Greg Louganis, Caitlyn Jenner, Don Lemon, Gavin Newsom, Margaret Cho and Armistead Maupin contribute interviews to the film.

Beginnings

Clift traces the impetus for his film to the election of 2016. “Politics changed drastically at that moment,” he says. As a lifelong Los Angelino, he realized something had to be done. “Therefore, I began reflecting on our own history. For me, it all started with The Black Cat.”

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Police raided The Black Cat Tavern in Silverlake on New Year’s Eve 1967. Unlike the Stonewall uprising almost two years later, it quickly became violent. “Undercover cops saw two guys kissing,” Clift says, “and they started beating the crap out of people.” Also unlike Stonewall, there was no immediate reaction.

Two months later, on February 11, some 400 protesters held a silent vigil at the venue. And they didn’t stop there.

“You have to remember,” the director points out, “that this was the era of protests. Protests against the Vietnam War, protests for racial equality, protests against hippies and protests for women’s rights. The gay community took lessons from that, and they decided to act.”

Cut and Print

Equal rights advocate started a newsletter: Personal Rights in Defense and Education (PRIDE). Within two years, that publication was rebranded The Advocate for national distribution.

“So The Black Cat started a ripple effect,” says Clift, “and that’s where I could see a structure for the film. I think it’s important to know our history. Because you have to know where you came from to know where we can go.”

The film hits what Clift calls “notes” emblematic of the LGBTQ struggle: Harvey Milk, Anita Bryant and HIV/AIDS all make an appearance.

And while the director was already at work on his history documentary, execs at The Advocate and Here TV learned of his project. “Once that happened,” he says, “all the parts came together pretty quickly.”

Contrary to 1967, “We have all these resources now that we didn’t have then. Looking back to that time, all we had was hope. And seeing how far we’ve come makes you wonder how far we can go.”

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Last modified: April 27, 2019

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