Three gay men in their 60s and 70s are the focus of the documentary Before You Know It, which will make its Los Angeles theatrical premiere at Laemmle Music Hall on Friday, June 13. After a week of showings at the Laemmle, it will be shown at the Arena Cinema in Hollywood for a week.
Director PJ Raval, who lives in Austin, said that he will attend the June 14 and June 20 screenings; he will most likely introduce the film and/or do Q&A’s with the audience.
Raval was inspired to create Before You Know It, which debuted as South by Southwest and screened at Outfest last year, after a 2008 screening of his film Trinidad, which features three transgender women.
“We were invited to screen in upstate New York, and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, Soldier’s Girl) was kind enough to organize a reception afterwards at the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center in Kingston. At the event there was a good turnout of LGBT community members, and surprisingly enough, they were almost exclusively LGBT seniors,” Raval says in his director’s statement. “At the event there was a good turnout of LGBT community members, and surprisingly enough, they were almost exclusively LGBT seniors.
“At that moment I realized how little I’d seen or heard of them as a community, and I started to question why … They shared personal stories with me, stories of living many years in the closet, or witnessing a large portion of their community die off during the AIDS crisis, or even grappling with the fact they’ve lived long enough to see gay marriage legalized in certain states. At that moment I realized that this particular group of people had seen such a large amount of change during their lifetime. Born before the civil rights movement, they have lived through the sexual revolution and Stonewall and now find themselves in a world where they can see openly LGBT characters on TV and listen to Lady Gaga on the radio …
The LGBT community has recently placed a lot emphasis on supporting our youth, and rightfully so, but what about support for the other highly vulnerable group: our senior communities?”
With that question in mind, Raval said he cast a wide net as he sought subjects for his film. As he did online research and outreach in the LGBT community, he made a conscious decision to focus on people living in areas that aren’t nationally known LGBT enclaves like West Hollywood, the Castro and New York’s west Village.
“I really wanted to look at this from a different perspective,” he said. “Clearly, LGBT people are everywhere.”
The three men at the center of the film are:
- Dennis, an avid Star Trek fan with a fondness for cross-dressing who lives a mostly closeted life in Florida and takes gay cruises and vacations to find places where he can be his true self.
- Ty, the outreach director for Harlem’s SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Elders) office. Initially Ty was going to help Raval find potential subjects, but then Raval became “immediately very interested in him” and chose to focus on Ty himself.
- Robert, a minister’s son who along with his late partner opened Robert’s LaFitte, the self-proclaimed “longest-running gay bar in Texas.” Raval had decided to feature a Texan because it’s a state that doesn’t have an LGBT-friendly reputation. When he spent time in Galveston, a number of people pointed him toward the bar and Robert quickly became the third subject of the film.
“What I want people to take away from watching this film is that these gay seniors face really heightened cases of discrimination,” said Raval, who pointed out that ageism and loneliness are universal experiences but are more prevalent for LGBT seniors.
“Aging is a universal process, and it happens to everyone,” Raval said.