Film and TV

PJ Raval discusses Before You Know It, his new documentary on aging in the LGBTQ community

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While I was following him, this idea of gay marriage coming up and passing, and him never having thought about it, to me was such a great example of how you change with the times when different opportunities arise. With Ty, it was about partnership, it wasn't just about him, right? It's about his partner.

For me, I do feel like I see more people in their middle stages of life dealing with that -- not as much as a 65-plus-year-old man.

With Robert, living in an area where there isn't a lot of social resources from the government or community in general in terms of LGBT support, he creates his own, which I think is brilliant. He is someone who recognizes that what he's created is so special and unique. There's a fear of not only leaving this world in passing, but also what happens to everything he's created -- the legacy aspects of your life.

That's why, for me, those three stories made sense to put together. One of the things I was really interested in doing with this film was to have it be a meditation of just aging. I think LGBT seniors are the most extreme examples of ageism and discrimination. What I've discovered is that a lot of them are single, a lot of them access social services, and a lot of them are isolated.

I do think what they're experiencing as they are getting older is universal. I just wanted to sit down and look at what were the factors that go into aging -- at least in the United States -- and what are the fears associated with it?

I wanted to widen the view of gay seniors -- when gay culture is represented in the media, for instance, the common view is some white, twenty-year-old gay boy living the life, Sex and the City in San Francisco kind of thing. (Laughs.)

What do you want viewers to take away from this film?

What I want people to take away from this film is that it is true: aging doesn't discriminate. It happens to all of us. I hope that by watching this film, they recognize that these people are, even though they are in the "golden years" of their life, they are still very much discovering who they are. They are still dealing with society at large and the times changing and dealing with discrimination and ideas of self-acceptance and loneliness. Those things apply to everyone.

I do feel like, at least in the United States, a lot of what happens is that people are afraid to think about the aging process and getting older because we do think that things stop. I hope by looking at this film, they realize that things keep going, and there's a real need and importance for us to pay attention to these senior communities. There's a lot that we can learn, but there's a lot of support that they need from us.

I feel like there has been a lot of support for the youth populations and there should be, because they are super-vulnerable. But thinking about the other end of the spectrum, the other vulnerable group is the senior population. It's so interesting -- I just did an interview with Ty, and someone asked, "Don't you think the gay community was so much cooler when it was more underground in the '70s? Don't you miss that?"

Ty was like, I don't know if I find that cooler, because it wasn't safe to walk the streets. So there's nothing really cool about feeling physically vulnerable. I started thinking about it, and I was like, wow. This is part of it, too -- imagine being eighty and walking down the street and getting harassed. Not only are you just vulnerable in general, you're physically vulnerable. I hope that people take away that we should be looking out for our senior community. We should be learning from them and we should be supporting them.

These people are the trailblazers. If it weren't for them, we wouldn't be where we are now as a community.

Before You Know It screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 18 at the Sie FilmCenter, at the opener of the Cinema Q Film Festival. Raval and documentary subjects Dennis Creamer and Ty Martin will be part of a live discussion following the film. For a full line-up of films or to purchase tickets to the Cinema Q Film Festival, visit the Sie FilmCenter's website.

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies

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