Interview with Gordon Cohen, PsyD, about the upcoming Cinema Series showing of “The Celluloid Closet”

Rob:  Can you tell me Gordon, how you first got the idea for this presentation in our cinema series?

Gordon:  Well, back in 2003 when I first spoke with Trish Cleary, she told me about the MAGPS cinema series.  I thought that it was a wonderful, creative and dynamic way for therapists to come together, have a viewing experience and learn through a different medium – film.  So I began to play around with some ideas back then about how best to capture something about the gay persona in cinema from an historical perspective.  It was two years later, in 2005 when Brokeback Mountain premiered that I realized the world and gay cinema would never be the same.

Rob:  Oh, so this has been cooking in you for a while.

Gordon:  Yes, I presented this series in 2007 as a six hour, two part workshop for the American Academy of Psychotherapists.  It was entitled, “The Gay Persona in Cinema: An Evolving Portrayal of Discrimination/Homphobia”.  Based on the book by Vito Russo, The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies , the documentary takes viewers through the different eras of film in America.  We learn how people have viewed and understood gays and lesbians over the decades.  It also gives you insight into how homosexuals have seen themselves.

Rob:  What can our viewers expect from the presentation?

Gordon:  There are three parts, though each can stand independently.  Since there is not enough time in our evenings together, I encourage each of the participants to see one film before they arrive.  Watch the award winning film, Brokeback Mountain.   We will be interweaving themes from that movie throughout our time together. It’s a great movie classic and well worth your time. Nominated as Best Picture of the Year, I for one was surprised that id did not win.

Rob:  You mean this is not a prerequisite, just a suggestion?

Gordon:  Correct.  All are welcome whether or not you’ve seen the movie.  You can also just attend the Celluloid Closet or Bear Cub.

Rob:  Can you tell me why this feels so important to you?

Gordon:  Growing up gay, like most other homosexuals, I tried to make sense of why I felt different.  We go to the movies to see images of ourselves, to make sense of who we are.  There were so few images of gay men and lesbians in the movies that we cling to any portrayal of a gay person in an attempt to better understand ourselves.  I came out when AIDS first came upon the scene in the early 80’s.  At that time, there were few positive images of gay people.  I believe that movies are a cultural reflection of how society sees the world and from a gay person’s perspective, the view has been very bleak.

Rob:  Are there clinical implications to this?

Gordon:  Certainly.  Depending upon the age of your client, the generation in which they were raised, a clinician needs to address the client on where they are coming from.  This series helps to highlight some of the changes which have occurred over time and the different worlds from which homophobia and discrimination have emerged.  

Rob:  I’ve never heard of the movie, The Bear Cub. 

Gordon:  I watched dozens of films to prepare for this project, viewing movies that might work for the presentation.  I too had never seen this movie.  But it’s a real gem.  Unknown by most, it’s a Spanish film with subtitles .  It’s a gay, light comedy, filled with drama and poignancy.  That viewing is scheduled for February 2013. 

Rob:  Any other movies which we’ll see?

Gordon:  I hope to also show excerpts from Rock Hudson’s Home Movies.  That one’s an underground set of clips which I think your viewers will truly enjoy.

Rob: From Rock Hudson’s Home Movies to Brokeback Mountain to Bear Cub, this sounds like it will be a mini gay film festival that will help us explore difficult topics like homophobia and discrimination through a cultural lens. Thank you for putting this together and offering it to us. Any final thoughts?

Gordon:  I ran a group last night and the Maryland election for marriage equality just passed.  It was a very powerful experience for the men in my group to feel the validation and affirmation from the citizenry who voted in favor of the bill. I can’t underscore enough how living as a disenfranchised individual takes a toll on one’s mental health.  As clinicians, it’s our responsibility to understand the nature of the discrimination so that we can best work with our clients.  This series will give MAGPS a real sense through film, of the journey of gay men and lesbians across the years.  I very much look forward to presenting this series to your group.

Rob: Thanks Gordon, this sounds like it will be a very fun and informative evening. I look forward to seeing you there!