Former journalist and documentary filmmaker John Scagliotti has devoted his 40-year career to sharing the history of the LGBTQ community.
“When I came out in 1970, right around Stonewall, I didn’t have any idea there were any other gay people before me,” explained Scagliotti. “That’s how small my world was.”
After working in radio for several years in Boston and launching “The Lavender Hour,” the first LGBTQ radio program, Scagliotti attended film school at New York University. He went on produce his first documentary in 1984, the multiple Emmy Award-winning “Before Stonewall.” Seven years later, he created the groundbreaking television series, “In the Life,” for PBS, the first nationally-distributed program about contemporary LGBTQ people.
“We fought the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to get ‘In the Life’ on the air,” he recalled. “It was a wonderful show to do…to reach into the homes of so many young kids, the first time to sit with (their) parents and watch a television show about themselves.”
In 1999, he produced a companion film, “After Stonewall,” a look at the enormous strides made in the late 1990s, followed by “Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World” in 2003.
Scagliotti’s latest film, “Before Homosexuals: From Ancient Times to Victorian Crimes,” a prequel to “Before Stonewall,” will be screened on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Classic Gateway as a fundraiser for the Stonewall National Museum and Archives.
The fascinating point-of-view documentary offers a guided tour of erotic history, poetry and art from the ancient civilizations of Asia, Egypt, Greece and Rome through the famously prudish Victorian period, illuminating changing cultural attitudes towards gay, lesbian and transgender people.
Scagliotti is often asked why he made a prequel to the seminal history of gay life in America—from 1985.
“Because of homophobia, discrimination, censorship, and anti-gay forces, it was impossible to find same-sex history. Even the National Archives in Washington, D.C. didn’t have a category covering the immense topic of homosexuality,” he pointed out.
Scagliotti credits a “gay revolution of the 1990s” that finally allowed LGBTQ people to begin reclaiming and recording that lost history. His film is a tribute to those researchers and academics, many of whom suffered professional discrimination because of their sexual orientation, who made many of these discoveries.
The screening is presented by the Center for Independent Documentary and the Pride of the Ocean Saving History Film Cruise. The cruise, which will depart Port Everglades on Feb. 25 and sail the Western Caribbean over seven nights, will include film screenings and presentations by the Stonewall National Museum, LGBT Historical Society of San Francisco, the University of Southern California ONE Institute and the University of California Los Angeles special collection of the “In the Life” television series.
Ten filmmakers will participate in special panel discussions about their works with the 60 to 100 cruise guests, many themselves film enthusiasts interested in preserving LGBT history. Past cruises have served as crucial catalysts in the completion of important film projects with more than $1 million in funding resulting from relationships developed on the trip, said Scagliotti.
“Before Homosexuals: From Ancient Times to Victorian Crimes” will be screened on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 4 p.m. at the Classic Gateway Theatre, 1820 E. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $15 ($10 for museum members) at Stonewall-Museum.org. For more information about the Pride of the Ocean Saving History Film Cruise, go to PrideOfTheOcean.com.