Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Lavender Scare

The Lavender Scare, dir. Josh Howard, 2016 USA, 88 min. 💖
Sunday, June 18, 11:00 a.m., Castro Theatre: Bay Area première
Saturday, June 24, 2:15 p.m., Piedmont Theatre (Oakland): East Bay première
The Lavender Scare
In 1953, shortly after taking office, President Eisenhower signed an executive order declaring that homosexuals could no longer be employed in any capacity by the U.S. federal government. The theory was that homosexuals and other “moral deviants” would be vulnerable to blackmail by the commies, and that they would betray their country rather than face having their terrible secret revealed to their families and friends. Not a single actual case of such blackmail was ever presented, and in fact a 1991 official review could find none, but the Reds had The Bomb, and soon thereafter Sputnik, so let the witch hunts begin! Even after Senator “Tailgunner Joe” McCarthy was discredited, ending the systematic search for Soviet spies in the State Department and other agencies, the quest to quash the quivering queers carried on until the Clinton Administration finally changed the policy in 1995.

The Lavender Scare delves into stories running the gamut from tragic tales of civil servants who committed suicide rather than be exposed, to the few brave souls who spoke out publicly against the injustice, notably including Frank Kameny, an astronomer who was kicked out of the space program and devoted the rest of his life to fighting a policy he found insufferable. Interviews with many of the people who were caught up in the effort, breathe life into a terrible chapter of Americans turning on other Americans out of politically expedient fear. It’s a compelling story, well told; definitely a MUST SEE.

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