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'Coming Out' Documents WWII Gays


Arthur Dong's informative, consciousness-raising "Coming Out Under Fire" (at the Nuart Thursday through July 27) documents the experiences of nine gay and lesbian World War II veterans amid a plethora of archival footage and framed within the context of the recent and ongoing debate over gays in the military.

All the men and women state that they had no problems getting along with straights, many of whom assumed their sexual orientation and were not upset by it, but that they lived in constant fear of being denounced and subjected to the Draconian anti-gay regulations established early in the war.

Most left with well-earned honorable discharges, but several were not so fortunate, bearing scars from those experiences to this day. Yet if a gay male didn't lie to get into the service, the alternative was to be sent home bearing the stigma of "sexual pervert."

Dong, who based his film on Allan Berube's 1990 book of the same name, makes clear that World War II was the first time gays and lesbians were brought together in large numbers; this breaking down of isolation laid the foundation for the eventual gay liberation movement.

Information: (310) 478-6379.

To Austin for Music: In a thoroughly captivating, laid-back way Tara Veneruso's "Janis Joplin Slept Here" (presented Thursday by EZTV at RESOLUTION Gallery, 6518 Hollywood Blvd.) chronicles the last three decades or so in the amazingly vibrant, varied and enduring music scene of Austin, Tex.

In the course of interviewing, in a mere two hours, 74 musicians, artists' managers, club owners, DJs, critics and even a simpatico retired cop, Veneruso reminds us of what a major music capital Austin has long been.

"Janis Joplin Slept Here" makes you wish you had been to local landmark clubs, past and present, where you could enjoy everyone from Muddy Waters, the Sex Pistols, Johnny Winter, Bruce Springsteen ("when he was just a long name"), Stevie Ray Vaughn to Joplin herself--not to mention scores more.

Information: (213) 466-6232.

Malcolm X Documentary: "Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcolm X" (at the Sunset 5 at noon only for one week starting Friday) is a powder keg of a documentary directed by Jack Baxter, a former private investigator, who co-produced and co-wrote the film with Jefri Aalmuhammed, a Black Muslim who was a consultant on Spike Lee's "Malcolm X."

In a series of interviews with Malcolm X's colleagues, coupled with much potent and often rare archival materials, the filmmakers raise many unanswered questions surrounding the assassination of Malcolm X in February, 1965, in Harlem's Audubon Ballroom.

"Brother Minister" brings considerable clarity to an exceedingly complex, highly charged event, pointing a lot of fingers along the way and suggesting that the death of the ever-evolving Malcolm was a tragic loss to the ranks of African American leaders. At the very least, the film makes a strong case for a congressional investigation into Malcolm's assassination.

Information: (213) 848-3500.

Yukon Gold Rush: "The Trail of '98" (at the Silent Movie Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.) is short on plot and characterization but is a knockout 1928 spectacle, tracing with a documentary-like fidelity a grueling journey to the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon. Among those who endure blizzards, raging rivers, an avalanche and a climactic Dawson saloon fire are a stalwart Ralph Forbes, a demure Dolores Del Rio and a villainous Harry Carey.

Alas, it takes 55 minutes for them just to get to Dawson, and not even skilled director Clarence Brown can make these lightly sketched characters come alive until the final two reels. What makes "The Trail of '98" worth seeing is the meticulously detailed authenticity of its production design, which includes even pre-earthquake footage of San Francisco's original Palace Hotel.

Harry Carey Jr. will appear in person, to autograph his "Company of Heroes: My Life in the John Ford Stock Company."

Information: (213) 653-2389.

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