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“Before Homosexuals” in the News and Online

“LGBT History Cruise to Stop in Anti-Gay Jamaica” – The Bay Area Reporter

In advance of the 2018 cruise, the GLBT Historical Society will present Scagliotti's film, "Before Homosexuals," Saturday, November 11, at 4 p.m. at the Roxie Theatre, 3117 16th Street. The screening is a benefit for the society and sponsored by Pride of the Ocean's cruise. Scagliotti is expected to be on hand for a question and answer session with the audience.

“Jason Collins On Life, Basketball, And Coming Out In The World Of Sports” – “Where We Live” WNPR

“What Happened Before Homosexuals?” – Take Magazine

“From Ancient Greece to Modern America: LGBT Pride Over the Centuries” – “Where We Live” WNPR

“Historical ‘Before Homosexuals’ Closes 9-Day Hartford LGBT Film Festival” –

“‘Before Homosexuals’ Excavates Gay Life in the Ancient World” –“Before Homosexuals” Excavates Gay Life In The Ancient World "Without preserving this, our lives are totally wiped out." by Adam Salandra 4/20/2017 Emmy Award-winner John Scagliotti is unearthing the erotic history of homosexuality before the 20th century in his new documentary Before Homosexuals. Using expert interviews, poetry and visual art, the director is chronicling the deep history of same-sex attractions, spanning from the ancient world to Victorian times. Scagliotti reminds viewers that the evidence of the historical existence of gay people has been there all along, but the taboo of discussing it has prevented society from learning just how much actually exists. The director credits the sexual revolution of the ’60s and the growth of LGBT power in politics during the ’90s with clearing the way for scholars to take a deeper look at what it meant to be gay before the 1900s. A prequel to Before Stonewall, the 1983 PBS film Scagliotti produced, the new documentary interviews experts about everything from lesbian love spells in ancient Rome to chapters of the Kama Sutra that were censored due to same-sex content. The film made its world premiere at Boston’s LGBT film festival, Wicked Queer, earlier this month, and you can click here for updates on future screenings.


“Scagliotti’s Film Premiers” – Brattleboro Reformer

Posted Wednesday, April 12, 2017 7:39 pm By Nicole S. Colson Special to the Reformer BRATTLEBORO — For Guilford resident John Scagliotti, attending the world premier of his film, "Before Homosexuals," in the city of Boston was like coming full-circle. After all, it's the city in which he had an encounter more than 40 years ago that led to a landmark decision for the personal freedom of gays and lesbians. It was in 1975 when he was arrested and charged with "soliciting to commit unnatural and lascivious acts." Scagliotti fought his guilty conviction all the way to the state supreme court - and with the help of the ACLU, it was overturned. The film opens with a telling of that encounter juxtaposed with 2,500-year old same-sex amorous graffiti etched in stone on the Greek island of Astypalaia. The film is an investigation of expressions of same-sex desire, as its tagline reads from "ancient times to Victorian crimes" through art, poetry and recovered history. "Before Homosexuals" is a prequel to Scagliotti's Emmy Award-winning 1986 film, "Before Stonewall" and its successor, "After Stonewall," in 1999. Four years later he produced "Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World." " 'After Stonewall' is about the modern-day gay movement and culture," he said. " 'Dangerous Living' was set in Egypt. It was time for a prequel to emphasize the changes taking place around the world." After his stint in Boston, where he and his partner, the late Andrew Kopkind, produced pioneering radio documentaries as well as America's first gay and lesbian commercial radio program; Scagliotti moved to New York City, where he received his Master's Degree in television and film at NYU. He also created America's first gay and lesbian television series, "In the Life," which ran for 21 years on PBS. After Kopkind's death in 1994, Scagliotti moved his base of operations to his home studio in Guilford. He co-founded the Kopkind Colony in 1999, which, among other things, holds a summer filmmakers workshop in collaboration with the Center for Independent Documentary. Scagliotti was awarded an honorary doctorate by Marlboro College in 2015 in recognition of his service to the gay, lesbian, and allied communities. It took him seven years to make "Before Homosexuals," which explores how the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the growth of LGBT political power in the decades that followed cleared the path for artists and scholars to re-discover the pre-20th century history of same-sex desire. The film will be traveling to screenings around the country, including at film festivals and roughly 2,000 universities. The producers expect to host a Brattleboro premier screening in the fall. "Making my earlier films if I went to the archives I couldn't find anything about (LGBT) history before the 1920s because it was hidden away," he said. "It's not just important we've found this material, it's important we're now in positions that will allow us to do so." In the '90s, during which what Scagliotti calls a "gay revolution," research grants were awarded out to find this information. "We needed to go back in time because there was now information about Greece, Africa, Japan ..." he said. "I interviewed people from all over the world who've done this research." One of the people who received a research grant was Dr. Bernadette Brooten, MacArthur Genius Grant Recipient and professor at Brandeis University, who joined Scagliotti for the Q&A session following the Boston premier screening earlier this month as part of the 33rd Annual Wicked Queer LGBT Film Festival. Among the several time periods on which the film focuses is The Renaissance. "It's filled with Greek and Roman stories about same-sex," said Scagliotti. One of the stories the film highlights is that of Michelangelo, who wrote more than 300 sonnets and madrigals seen as evidence of his homosexual leanings. They were in 1623 with the gender of pronouns changed, and it was not until the English translations were published in 1878 that the original genders were restored. "Censorship is part of that story yet the poetry is beautiful," said Scagliotti. In addition to traveling the world to tell this story, Scagliotti drew on talent from the Brattleboro area for many aspects of the film. Michael Hanish (Guilford) shot a lot of the principal cinematography; Matt Bucy (White River Junction) was the film's digital colorist; Dave Snyder (Guilford) was the film's Director of Recording from his studio Guilford Sound, where many local voices were recorded, including those of Suzanne d'Corsey (Brattleboro), Guilford Selectman Richard Wizansky, as literary giant Oscar Wilde. Many local artisans also contributed to the film. Bookbinder Susan Bonthron (Guilford) created an intricate tunnel book to visualize a lesbian love poem from Imperial China. Photographer Liz LaVorgna (Brattleboro) with the help of HB Lozito (Brattleboro) organized and shot a re-enactment of Natalie Clifford Barney's Paris salon at the Latchis Theater last year. The Belden Hill Boogie Band (Jeremy Gold, Susan Bonthron, Dave Hall, Patty Carpenter, and Joan Peters) composed aneloquent rendition of "I'm Goin' Home" for the film's section on Walt Whitman's influence on the early call for gay liberation. Scagliotti was pleased to see young gay activists attending the Boston premier screening at the Museum of Fine Arts. "It's exciting for me with this change in the climate in America where young people are demonstrating on the streets," said Scagliotti. "I think it's really important they know about the history that got them to where they are today." Nicole S. Colson may be reached at

“Before Homosexuals: The Prequel to Before Stonewall” – MoviesOverTheRainbow.comDirected by John Scagliotti 2017 “Oh my God, we have history! Or Herstory! No it’s Ourstory! At last, hidden no longer! Back from the mists of time and ages of antiquity! Ancient gay love and lives!” -Larissa Naro, my wife After a quite frightening asthma attack that landed my wife in the hospital for two days and then home from work for a week, she had been a bit low and certainly not at all like her normally very animated and cheerful self when she joined me on our futon yesterday to watch a screener of this documentary that was kindly sent to me, Before Homosexuals: The Prequel to Before Stonewall. When the documentary was over and I asked my wife her thoughts on it, she was instantly her old cheerful self again as she excitedly jumped off the futon and exclaimed her happiness at finally getting to see in one 90 minute film what we have both suspected for a long time now and have often talked about with each other during our 17 year relationship – that us gays have always existed in history. Us LGBT folks have always been a part of history since there was history. Back in 1999 when I was first starting to come out and was trying to accept my sexuality, being a history buff, I had decided to do some investigating about the history of my LGBT people since I knew little to nothing about my people outside of the inside Hollywood gossip my gay uncle, who knew and worked with a lot of Hollywood gays, used to tell me. Sure, I knew who was gay in Hollywood, but that is only a small part of our history, and so I was excited to see what else was out there in history about us, but searching for our history in those early years of my coming out process proved a frustrating task in many ways – Historians denying same sex evidence. History changing the story so the same sex relationship was wiped from time by turning it heterosexual or just platonic. Lack of much historical information out there even about us. My research included watching documentaries, because I love me some documentary watching, and two of these documentaries that were included in my LGBT history research were quite outstanding – Before Stonewall and After Stonewall. These documentaries mainly delved into our 20th Century history just before and just after the 1969 Stonewall Riots. And now after all these years, a prequel, that was actually needed, for once, has been added to that amazing film series, Before Homosexuals: The Prequel to Before Stonewall and what a wonderful addition to the series this movie is, covering much of our history that my wife and I have discussed with each other for the last 17 years together – Alexander The Great and his male lover Hephaestion Achilles and his male lover Patroclus Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci both being homosexual Sappho and her poems about her female lovers Oscar Wilde and his three trials that eventually sent him to jail just for being gay And on and on and on the documentary went with all kinds of wonderful and not so wonderful history about us that my wife and I have been debating and discussing about all these years. But the movie also went on and on and on about all kinds of history about us that neither of us ever knew about and there is so much out there about us that we had no idea existed! Lesbians are condemned in the Bible too, so thanks Saul/Paul for that! A male couple helped to save democracy in Greece! There are a lot of really, really old penis sculptures out there, and yes, they are about men loving on men! Michelangelo wrote poetry to his male lover and what beautiful poetry it is! We are all over the world! We are all across time! All the way back to cavemen! No shit, we are everywhere! And as all of this unending plethora of LGBT historical information went on and on and on, we were so amazed by all of this new material about our people that the film had this profound effect on both of us, because for the first time in one place here was ALL of our history, from cavemen days all the way up to modern times AND THERE IS SO MUCH HISTORY ABOUT US!!! That was the true gift of this documentary that I believe pulled my wife out of her sick of being sick blues and helped to pull me out of my blues about my wife being so sick, because for the first time here was our extensive history in one movie. Here was a movie telling us over and over again how often in time we have been there making history with everyone else. And we have often and always been a part of history. And when you add in the other two films in this series, you have basically our WHOLE history right there on your TV at your fingertips…or laptop tips or smart phone tips or whatever tips you are watching it on. And so there was movie magic right there in this film, doing its thing to me, as it’s always been doing to me my whole life, picking me up and dusting me off and telling me to go on, keep trying because this movie kept showing me time and again to keep trying. Keep moving. Keep being you because sooner or later, as time marches on, it’s okay to be you again. And that was the biggest shocker of them all with this film, something I had suspected for some time, but I never had quite the right visual before to connect all the bits in history for me, that in history there are moments in time for us when it is okay to be us. There have, of course, been times when it was so NOT okay to be us and we just had a LONG spell of it so NOT being okay to be us. But I think we are swinging the other way with history now and it’s becoming more and more okay to be us and this documentary, along with its two companions, help to point the way to this realization that we are coming on a time in history again that it is okay to just be gay. How’s them apples? Pretty cool apples, I think. ? I also think that Dorothy Parker (a lady who liked the ladies) summed up this whole phenomenon pretty distinctly and simply – “Heterosexuality is not normal, it’s just common.” In other words, history decides when we are normal, so I say to history, we’re normal. And this documentary, along with its two companions, more than proves that fact. And if this film can pick my wife up out of the I’m sick of being sick blues, then that makes it a pretty damn good movie too. At least to me. And probably my wife too. ? ______________________ Before Homosexuals: The Prequel to Before Stonewall will premiere April 8th, 2017 at 2:00 PM at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston as part of the 33rd Annual Wicked Queer: The Boston LGBT Film Festival. You can also keep updated about more festival screenings of Before Homosexuals. The producers of this film will also have an educational outreach campaign this fall with the goal of including Before Homosexuals, Before Stonewall and After Stonewall in university and college libraries, making it available to thousands of young people around the world. Let’s hope they accomplish this goal. What a great historical resource these three documentaries are for our past, present and future.

“Where’s our history?” – The Commons

'Where's our history?' Filmmaker John Scagliotti fills some gaps in the human narrative By Wendy M. Levy/The Commons GUILFORD—“Where’s our goddamned history?” filmmaker John Scagliotti wants to know. Where are the archives, museum exhibits, textbooks, and films documenting the history and contributions of queer people, those who make up the ever-expanding LGBTQI acronym? “We had to do it on our own. We had to. The institutions are homophobic,” Scagliotti said. “But to get there involved a fight, a struggle,” he noted. Scagliotti knows quite a bit about that history and that struggle. As a young, out, gay man, he was arrested and summoned to court for the crime of dating. Years later he attended — and boycotted — many straight friends’ weddings while his long-time relationship with Andrew Kopkind was denied legal and cultural legitimacy, simply because Kopkind died years before Vermont allowed civil unions and the rest of the nation legalized same-sex marriage. Professionally, Scagliotti created PBS’s “In the Life,” the nation’s first and longest running LGBT news series; he produced the Emmy Award-winning 1985 film, “Before Stonewall,” and directed its follow-up film, “After Stonewall.” Locally, Scagliotti hosts the yearly CineSlam LGBT film festival in Brattleboro, and in the 1970s he published what was likely southeastern Vermont’s first gay newspaper. Now, in a converted second-floor room in an old barn deep into the woods of Guilford, he and film editor David Hall are putting the finishing touches on “Before Homosexuals,” a sort of “prequel” to the Stonewall films. “Before Homosexuals,” a documentary with some dramatic re-enactments, covers about two-and-a-half millenia of queer history on nearly every continent, and ends at “about the early 1900s, with Oscar Wilde,” Scagliotti said. The film is still in production, with some rights clearances in the works. Scagliotti expects a December release, likely beginning with the film festival circuits. A long road Although Scagliotti first envisioned making a film about the history of homosexuals in 1983, he started working on this film a little over five years ago. Why did it take so long? Scagliotti provides part of the answer in a question he asks in the film: “What was it about people like me that made people so afraid?” In the “Stonewall” films, writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde talks about history being cyclical and circular. She points out that, as time progresses, the circles of history get bigger. It is only recently that those circles included queer people. “This is why we’re making the prequel 30 years after ‘Before Stonewall,’” he said. “Before the gay revolution of the 1980s and 90s, there were no openly gay people in academia, which meant no tenure and no grants” allowing anyone to study gay history and culture, he said. But, “the big changes in the institutions,” when members of the academic union made their presence known en masse, “allowed gay history to be saved, because you need money and tenure to do that,” Scagliotti said. “There were no archives,” he said emphatically. “If you went to the National Archives” looking for any evidence of gay life and culture, “they wouldn’t have it — they’d destroy it or hide it,” Scagliotti said. In one scene in “Before Homosexuals,” Scagliotti is at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Behind him is a photographer snapping pictures of documents. Scagliotti paid him to digitize some of what he described as “boxes of gay stuff, not organized.” “We’re saving this stuff,” he said. Scagliotti is part of a new movement to develop archives of LGBT memorabilia, but because so much has already been lost or destroyed — by homophobic institutions and family members, or individuals who were afraid or simply didn’t think their lives were worth documenting — Scagliotti estimates only about 20 percent will be saved. And most of it will not be about rural queers. Local history Even in southeastern Vermont, where queers have a long history of creating and influencing the culture — from the Andrews Inn to the commune movement to the Ladies of the Rainbow — there is no institutional collection of LGBT-related documents or ephemera. Scagliotti is working to fix this omission. To kick off 2009’s CineSlam LGBT film festival, held every year in June to celebrate Pride Month, Scagliotti co-produced with David M. Hall a historical visual exhibit, “Our Lives, Our History — Celebrating 40 Years since the Stonewall Riots.” The exhibit included “We Were Here!” a grassroots display featuring memorabilia from local queers, their friends, and family members. “About 20 people were involved and they brought their stuff” and put it up for all to see, Scagliotti said. “I don’t think such a thing has been presented before in the area. My hope is that this presentation will get some folks in the archive-preserving local history field in our local towns to begin to see LGBT lives and stories in rural America and all the great things they have done as something worthy of preserving in a serious manner,” Scagliotti said in a news release announcing the event. Scagliotti also had another purpose for this exhibit: he wanted to film it for inclusion in “Before Homosexuals.” “All this stuff was hidden,” Scagliotti said, because “there’s nowhere to put it. It was all from people’s private collections.” ‘Liberation of the spirit’ To illustrate some of the film’s points and add life and movement to history, Scagliotti recruited local artists to recreate scenes relevant to queer history. For part of the section on the 19th-century “liberation of the spirit,” Scagliotti wanted to tell the story of Natalie Clifford Barney, the American expatriate artist and polyamorist lesbian who produced a play of Sappho’s poems in her Paris salon. Instead of telling, Scagliotti showed. He gathered local women to play the actors, a local hairdresser to give them period-appropriate stylings, and local photographer Liz LaVorgna to snap pictures of them posing in the Latchis Theatre’s Greek-inspired lobby. “We spent all day on this to use four pictures from the shoot,” Scagliotti said. Susan Bonthron, book artist and owner of Guilford’s Otter Pond Bindery, made a tunnel book — a three-dimensional book that creates a landscape of layers — to illustrate the portion of the film about an early Chinese lesbian poem. Bonthron also provided some of the music for the score, joining neighbors Jeremy Gold, Joan Peters, and Scagliotti’s husband David Hall (the father of the film’s editor) at Dave Snyder’s recording studio, Guilford Sound. Even the Strolling of the Heifers parade was (inadvertently) recruited to provide context and illustrate themes in the film. “It was a few seconds,” Scagliotti said, used for the “Liberating Spirit of America” chapter of “Before Homosexuals.” In it, the director stands at the intersection of Main and Flat streets as Senator Bernie Sanders comes around the corner, waving to parade-goers. “All of my films are local,” Scagliotti said, “they have local roots — grassroots.” “We traveled the world” gathering information and interviews for “Before Homosexuals,” he said, “and we brought it all back here.” “It’s a sweeping history,” Scagliotti said, “and it’s all done here in Guilford.”

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