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Logline: Canadian LGBTQ documentary filmmaker Charlie David explores the life and film work of Pat Rocco, the man who dared to put the first same sex kiss on the big screen.
Synopsis: In the 1970’s Playboy magazine dubbed Pat Rocco the King of the Nudies, but he is much more than an erotic filmmaker. Rocco is an activist, artist, filmmaker, and entertainer. He’s the whole Hollywood package, with one more story to tell: his own. He arrived in Hollywood with his parents at the age of eleven. By seventeen he knew he was gay, had moved away from home, and was living as an out, gay, young man. It was 1951.
Having sung in choirs as a youth, he managed to find gigs in radio, nightclubs, theatres, and church basements. With his true talent and undeniable charisma, he made his way to television variety shows, starring alongside legends like Phyllis Diller.
Rocco began selling his erotic, playful and romantic nude male films in the backs of local magazines and in 1968, he was offered his own festival at Los Angeles’ Park Theatre – the first of its kind. It was an instant hit and Rocco continued to pump out more films as fast as he could, pushing new boundaries with each one. In A Very Special Friend, Rocco dared to screen the first kiss between two men ever seen on a big theatre screen. Artistic, erotic, and highly romanticized, his films were controversial not due to how explicit they were but rather their bold political and artistic expression.
Rocco was an activist on the front lines of the sexual liberation movement,
documenting many protests in the sixties and seventies, and campaigning with Harvey Milk. He was the first President of Christopher Street West (producers of LA Pride), and in 1974, the first to organize a Pride festival following the annual sexual liberation march. Love and romance were his political weapons, and just when things on screen began to heat up, Rocco fades to black, and stops making films... why?
In his early 80s, Pat Rocco still had the air of a classic Hollywood showman, and remained passionate and active in civic politics. He is officially recognized by the United States government as an “Outstanding Older American.” Rocco's film collection is held in the UCLA archives and the producers have worked with UCLA to have many of the films digitized and restored. The Canadian LGBTQ ArQuives is also championing the project with the hope to eventually house the completed film as an important part of queer history.
Pat Rocco documented the early queer rights movements in Los Angeles and San Francisco at a time when it was legally and physically precarious to do so. There is a record of Harvey Milk's historic speech and attendance at the Los Angeles Pride Parade shortly before his murder because Pat Rocco was there with his camera.
Without Pat's films, much of the early LGBTQ rights movement would be
undocumented as mainstream press was not covering it. Pat Rocco's life story will be told through candid personal interviews with Charlie David at Pat's home in Hawaii as well as with friends such as Phyllis Diller, Reverend Troy Perry and film historian Whitney Strub.
"Don't ask, don't tell, just do it," Rocco advises Charlie in one of their final exchanges. It is of great importance that contributions from change-makers like Pat Rocco are woven into the larger narrative of our collective human rights history. Audiences will be amazed and inspired by the things that Pat Rocco dared to do.
This is a finely crafted documentary dealing with important parts of queer and urban history.
I absolutely love eccentric character documentaries. If not for such kooks, would pride have happened...?
Both entertaining and informative. As a cis, straight, white woman, I developed a greater understanding in the bravery and importance in being "out". I also really enjoyed his point of view on his films - that they were strictly of a loving nature, rejecting the label of "pornography".