Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-09-16
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Knight at the Moves: Bill T. Jones: A Good Man; film notes
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

By all reports, Fondly Do We Hope … Fervently Do We Pray—the Abraham Lincoln-themed dance piece by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane dance company that debuted at Ravinia in 2009—was a wildly mixed bag, an overstuffed mass of good and bad. However, that's not the case for the creation of dancer/choreographer Jones' complicated work, as seen through the viewfinder of directors Bob Hercules and Gordon Quinn in their documentary Bill T. Jones: A Good Man. It's brilliant.

The Ravinia Festival commissioned Jones to create the piece to celebrate Abraham Lincoln's bicentennial; the cameras follow him from the beginning of the process up to the work's debut, as he is seen pacing backstage when the lights dim. At the outset, months earlier, he arrives in downstate Springfield for a tour of the familiar Lincoln sites. Jones, an African American, is visibly moved by what he sees and he speaks passionately about the heavy burden of trying to incorporate the complexity of his feelings about Lincoln, including the president's place in history, into the work.

After a period of research with Janet Wong, his associate artistic director, the work begins. In rehearsal, Jones equates the Black struggle for equality with same-sex marriage and immigration, and with a profundity that is part of his everyday discourse comments, "All that I humbly ask is that I be allowed to participate in a world of ideas." (Interestingly though, especially in light of Jones' own queer artistic identity, Lincoln's purported gay sexuality isn't one of them.) As we watch Jones wrestling to pull together the different pieces—creating the steps alone in improvisation (captured on video by Janet Wong, his devoted number two), offering input to the composers, directing the actors and ruminating on the importance (or lack thereof) of the piece at hand—we are privy to a commanding figure who is powerful, magnetic and deeply sensual.

"Bill's a fire," Wong says at one point, and we see what she means when Jones doesn't get what he's looking for from his dancers and musicians. However, he's not a screamer or a diva (at least not that we can tell)—just an artist with high standards who rightfully expects the same level of commitment from his fellow artists. "I'll be a story that they'll tell at dinner," he remarks about members of his own company with razor sharp insight, "But I'll be vivid."

The film doesn't offer a lot of Jones' own background (which one hungers for), veering instead into a mini-tribute (with marvelous clips of past performances) to Arnie Zane, Jones' lover and dance partner who died in 1988. Also, we see the resulting Lincoln piece only in tantalizing segments as the finishing touches are put on the work at Ravinia and snatches of the actual performance. However, those are quibbles. In examining this enigmatic artist, Hercule and Quinn have created a mesmerizing portrait of a great American artist—and a queer one to boot. This film is highly recommended.

The film, produced by Chicago-based Kartemquin Films is having its premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., on Friday, Sept. 23. The filmmakers—along with cinematographer Keith Walker, editor David E. Simpson and members of Jones's dance company—will be present for a post-screening discussion moderated by Ravinia Festival President Welz Kauffman following the 7:45 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 27 screening.

Of related interest: Self-described "social architect" and filmmaker Cleo Manago has produced the thought-provoking short film I AM A MAN: Black Manhood & Sexual Diversity in the Black Community, which documents a town-hall meeting in Harlem organized and presided over by Manago, the Rev. Al Sharpton and other panelists familiar with the topic of African-American gender politics. The 36-minute film raises interesting questions about the stereotyping and marginalization of Black men (including celebrities) in both straight and gay culture through the use of archival footage and the lively, insightful discussion of the participants. The film can be watched for free online at and is available for private organizational screenings and discussions by contacting Manago at .

More queer artists: Two disparate but altogether entrancing movies that focus on gay artists are now available on DVD/Blu-ray. Bill Cunningham New York, one of the year's most delightful documentaries, is a portrait of the artistic and energetic New York Times fashion street photographer/society chronicler that is out from Zeitgeist. In addition to the delightful film, the disc has a slew of wonderful extras—deleted and extended scenes, an essay booklet, etc.—that further illuminate the elusive personality of its energetic subject.

On an altogether different level is queer icon Jacques Cocteau's sumptuous and mystical 1950 effort Orpheus, the auteur's variation on the classic Greek myth that has been released in a stunning new edition from Criterion. The film stars Cocteau's one-time lover and muse Jean Marais as the poet who travels to the Underworld in the company of Death (personified by the beautiful but icy Maria Casares). The film, a triumph of the French cinema, has long influenced gay artists (including the Smiths and Pet Shop Boys) and has been meticulously restored and comes with a raft of extras, typical for Criterion.

Film notes:

—The Boys in the Band, Hollywood's first (1970) mainstream look at male gay culture and the subject of the recent documentary Making the Boys (debuting on DVD this fall) will have a rare theatrical screening on Sept. 23 at the Gene Siskel, 164 N. State St., as part of its series focusing on movies set in apartments.

—Oak Park PFLAG is presenting a documentary film series focusing on issues pertinent to the LGBT community on Sunday afternoons in October in the Veteran's Room at the Oak Park Public Library (834 Lake Street, Oak Park). The 2:30 p.m. screenings are free and open to the public. The line up includes Gen Silent (Oct. 2), Bullied (Oct. 9), Getting Out (Oct. 16) and concludes with two short films, No Dumb Questions and Just Call Me Kade (Oct. 23). Historian and film buff Doug Deuchler is the emcee for the screenings which are being co-presented by Oak Park PFLAG and the Oak Park Public Library. Phone the PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois at 630-415-0622 for further information.

—Early warning: The Chicago History Museum's year-long exhibit Out in Chicago teams up with Roosevelt University to present Beyond Brokeback, a celebration of the LGBT 2005 classic Brokeback Mountain. The daylong celebration includes a 2 p.m. screening of the Oscar winning Ang Lee film followed by a 4:35 p.m. panel discussion with makers of the movie and a 5:35 p.m. staged reading with music of messages, essays and poetry that have been inspired by the film. The event takes place Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy. Further info: 312-922-2110. Advance tickets available at

Check out my archived reviews at or . Readers can leave feedback at the latter website.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg films out Sept. 25 2020-09-23
SHOWBIZ Julia Child movie, Janelle Monae, 'Ammonite,' Harry Styles 2020-09-21
Billy Masters 2020-09-16
MOVIES Reeling goes online for 2020 edition 2020-09-16
MOVIES David Pevsner brings performance to home screens 2020-09-16
SHOWBIZ 'Pose,' Matt Bomer, 'Mr. Soul,' Lil Nas X, Halsey, Dave Koz 2020-09-15
Reeling 2020 reviews 2020-09-12
SHOWBIZ 'Star Trek,' Julianne Moore, benefit album, 'To Wong Foo' 2020-09-08
Resisterhood, Democracy through female, LGBTQ+, minority lens, streaming Sept. 22 2020-09-02
MOVIES New documentary visits 'House of Cardin' 2020-09-02
LGBTQ+ actor Hank Chen talks OneWheaton, Tyra Banks and Robin Williams 2020-09-02
"PFLAG Votes" film aims to get out the vote 2020-09-02
Reeling: Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Fest announces program 2020-09-02
Filmmakers look back at pioneering movie 'Transsexuals' 2020-09-02
SHOWBIZ #ReadOutProud, Mj Rodriguez, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Lopez 2020-09-02
'The Boys in the Band' on Netflix Sept. 30 2020-08-22
Screening, talk regarding 1971 film 'Transsexuals' Aug. 27 2020-08-20
Billy Masters 2020-08-18
MOVIES 'Disarm Hate' features LGBTQ+ gun-control activists after massacre 2020-08-18
MUSIC Performer Jane Badler helps present late son's musical vision 2020-08-18
PASSAGES Filmmaker, Outfest alum and Emmy-Award-winning producer Ash Christian dies 2020-08-16
SHOWBIZ Janet Mock, 'Pose,' Joan Jett, Sam Smith, 'Digging Up Dorothy' 2020-08-04
Documentary about Miss Continental pageant released 2020-08-04
LGBTQ performers and stories among 2020 Emmy nominations 2020-08-04
MOVIES Reeling taking place virtually Sept. 24-Oct. 4 2020-07-31
31st Annual GLAAD Awards airs virtually; Lil Nas X, Dolly appear 2020-07-31
Wizard World postponed until June 24-27, 2021 2020-07-29
NATIONAL Trans teacher, Billy Porter, TGNC home, gay police officer 2020-07-27
SHOWBIZ John Waters, Billy Eichner, 'Trans & Nonbinary Kids Mix,' RuPaul 2020-07-27
NUNN ON ONE PHOTOGRAPHY Peter Bussian focuses on New York's trans community 2020-07-22
MOVIES Film probes Chechen's anti-LGBTQ atrocities 2020-07-22
Studio Responsibility Index reveals mix of high, low numbers 2020-07-22
SHOWBIZ: Ellen, Scooby-Doo, 'Survivor,' LGBTQ singers, Andy Cohen 2020-07-21
SHOWBIZ Seth Rudetsky, LGBTQ films, Janelle Monae, trans singer 2020-07-13
Welbon invited to join Motion Picture Academy 2020-07-09
Billy Masters 2020-07-08
NUNN ON ONE MOVIES Queer filmmaker has 'Mucho Mucho Amor' for famed astrologer 2020-07-07
SHOWBIZ Paris Jackson, GALECA nods, Halle Berry, Jennifer Holliday 2020-07-07
INTERNET Juan Pablo Di Pace: Life's all about the small things in 'Minutiae' 2020-07-07
SHOWBIZ Terrence McNally, Latino/a/x musicians, singer Harry Hains, Lena Waithe 2020-06-29

Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Submit an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.