Vito power

With his new HBO doc on activist Vito Russo, Jeffrey Schwarz keeps queer history in the limelight

RICH LOPEZ  |  Staff Writer

In a San Francisco screening for his latest documentary Vito, a young man in full-on rainbow garb reminded director-producer Jeffrey Schwarz of his purpose. In a post-film discussion that, man, attending with his mother, told the crowd that he had just come out and had no idea who Vito Russo was. Other than rainbows, perhaps he didn’t know much more about gay Pride and history.

“’This is my first gay anything,’” Schwarz recalls the young man saying. “’And today, I have a new hero.’ That encapsulates why I did this and how resonant Vito is today. He showed that you live your life as you wish. And be fearless and be brave.”

While the documentary takes a chronological look at Russo’s life, the message isn’t just a biographical look at the man. As one of the first and perhaps the most prominent activist, Schwarz ponders what Russo could have done had he not succumbed to AIDS in 1990.

—  Rich Lopez