BY SARAH TEREZ ROSENBLUM
Seems everyone from Kathy Griffin to Barack Obama has joined advice columnist and all-around messiah Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Project,” reaching out to gay youth. But director Stu Maddox is focusing his efforts on an often forgotten, perhaps even more vulnerable group, LGBT elders. His film, “Generation Silent” takes an intimate look at the lives of older LGBT people, their struggles with health care workers, homophobic legislation, and yes, even bullying.
Maddox says he became interested in the subject while doing an earlier film “about two guys who have been together for more than half a century. Doing the film, it became clear [seniors] have a whole lot of fears and anxieties around some pretty scary issues like social security, survivor benefits and being able to take care of each other in nursing facilities. The inequality that’s out there between gay and straight couples really magnifies when you get to the other end of your life.”
"Generation Silent," which screens on November Sixth at the Reeling Film Festival, represents Maddox’s effort to direct attention to these issues. Along with Executive Producer, Barrie Atkin, Maddox has been working to raise funds and awareness, opening minds and gaining supporters along the way. According to Maddox, “Making the film was the easy part. As an independent filmmaker, [now] is the most stressful. We’re doing a lot of fund-raising, film festivals, hopefully starting a grassroots effort to raise money and continue growing the viewings of this film. We’re just trying to change people one group at a time.”
So far, Maddox says, the reception has been overwhelming, not merely in the LGBT population, but in the health care community as well. “Whether they’re a nurse or a caregiver or even a policy maker,” says Maddox, “we have people coming to us saying ‘this has re-energized me into thinking outside the box when I take care of people.’”
With PBS broadcasting clips from the film throughout November, Maddox is particularly excited about drawing the attention of “policy makers and caregivers. There’s nothing that will make the light go on over people’s heads more than seeing [the films’ subjects] go through a year of life trying to be themselves within the care system. My hope is [to use] “Generation Silent” as a teaching and awareness-raising tool.”
As for whether life really does get better for LGBT individuals, Maddox believes it does, however “the suicides that happen at the beginning also happen at the end for the same reasons. There’s a point where it can actually go back the other way, and those bullies that are there at the beginning of life are waiting for you at the back end, at nursing facilities at the care places you go to, sometimes they’re even your roommate.” His answer? To break “the cycle of bullying from the beginning. “Life is what you make of it [and] it does get better, as long as you take proactive action.”
To learn more or to donate visit http://stumaddux.com/GEN_SILENT.html.
And speaking of grassroots fund-raising efforts, a while back I blogged about Chicago writer Justin Palmer’s efforts to raise money for his Chicago-based sit-com “Bad Sides.” Well, the show’s first viewing party is set for November 21. Visit www.badsides.com to donate or join the party.
A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually.