And this, as Selver, 65, explains, led to the documentary's greatest impact—encouraging people to come out. "The film spoke about something that really hadn't been spoken about before in a very reassuring way," she says. "So it was a big contribution to asserting your homosexuality and moving on." Epstein, 54—the erstwhile film neophyte who would go on to make The Times of Harvey Milk (1984), The Celluloid Closet (1995), and the Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl, which premiered at Sundance last week—agrees: "The film was incredibly affirming for any gay person who had never experienced anything like it before because there had never been anything like it before."

Lucy Massie Phenix, Nancy Adair, and Andrew Brown watch preliminary footage.
Mariposa Film Group/2009 Milliarium Zero
Lucy Massie Phenix, Nancy Adair, and Andrew Brown watch preliminary footage.

Details

Word Is Out
Directed by the Mariposa Film Group
Milliarium Zero
January 29 through February 4
Anthology Film Archives

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Though queer culture has changed enormously over the past three decades, Word Is Out remains timely. "Somebody could make Word Is Out II with younger people," Nancy Adair, 62, notes, emphasizing how difficult it still is for gay young adults in rural areas, for instance. "I think the stories [in our film] are universal; it doesn't matter that the people are smoking and drinking and have funny-looking collars." Perhaps Gillon, who spoke so beautifully about falling in love 34 years ago, best explains the film's appeal in 2010: "It's not just a slice of history—which it is—but it's the fact that these stories still resonate. There it is: 26 different people talking about what they've been through and hope to find."

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