Dillan DiGiovanni reviews To Be Takei, a documentary of the inspiring life of actor, George Takei
The 30th anniversary of the Boston LGBT Film Festival opened on April 3rd with a screening of the full-length documentary To Be Takei. The film follows the former Star Trek star who is currently enjoying a surge in popularity since coming out in 2005.
It’s not the story many LGBT people can share, which may make George all the more likely of a hero. Here was a man who stayed in the closet for the duration of his career, hiding his relationship with Brad Altman, whom he married in 2008, after being partnered for over 20 years.
It’s true, he enjoyed a highly successful career as Sulu on the Star Trek television and movie series, but there’s more to George Takei than most people know.
After years of concealing his identity as a gay man to “survive in the industry”, George decided to come out publicly in 2005 and things have only gotten better for him, and thus for marriage equality and other LGBT rights for which he is an activist and advocate. It’s the dream of many LGBT people, to live out, proudly and experience the acceptance and love all human beings need and deserve. George Takei is working hard to make that dream a reality.
I felt pure admiration and joy as I sat in the screening theater of the Institute for Contemporary Art on a Thursday night in Boston, watching this thoroughly enjoyable documentary that told an exquisite story of struggle, triumph and most of all, humor. Those of us who follow George’s facebook page know his penchant for silliness and his signature, “oh my!” tagline. George Takei loves to laugh, and he does it often in the film. Often, in fact, is an understatement. George laughs for most of this film and I couldn’t help but submit to the infectious quality of it. His smile lights up the screen.
He spent about four years of his childhood in the Rohwer Relocation Center. The Japanese-American internment camp was part of Executive Order 9066, issued by President Roosevelt in 1942, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. George and his family were forcibly removed from his home in California and transported to the Rohwer Center in Arkansas. The time there affected him deeply and he’s using the fruits of his successful acting career and current popularity to create what he hopes becomes his personal legacy: a musical. The show, Allegiance, opened in San Diego in September, 2012 to box-office breaking records. If you want to support the current efforts to help bring it Broadway, you can read more here.
Takei’s hope is that more people will make connections between past historical mistakes. When NPR.org covered the opening of Allegiance, they shared the connection to George’s long acting and activist career, “I see Allegiance as my legacy project. The story is very important to me and it’s been my mission in life to raise Americans’ awareness of that shameful chapter of American history. I think we learn more from those times in our history where we stumbled as a democracy than we learn from the glorious chapters. We have the history of slavery or inequality to women, and now the civil rights movement of the 21st century is the struggle for equality for the gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. And I think it’s important for Americans to know about the times that we failed, and Allegiance tells that story.”
To Be Takei is one of many incredible stories being shown at the Boston LGBT Film Festival for the next week through April 12th, but I was amazed and so grateful to be present for this particular screening. Much of what I’ve known about George Takei has been from his facebook page and common cultural references to Star Trek. Thanks to director Jennifer Kroot and editor/co-director Bill Weber, To Be Takei shows this man to be more brave, beautiful and inspiring than most of us know.
To be sure, run don’t walk to see To Be Takei.
More information about the Boston 2014 Film Festival can be found here: http://www.bostonlgbtfilmfest.net/
And try to capture a glimpse of me in the FACES project trailer, being shown before many of the films during the Boston LGBT Film Festival: FACES Project Trailer
photo courtesy of the Boston LGBT Film Festival website
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