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Gay filmmaker Rob Epstein, who has won two Academy Awards for Best Documentary for The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, was born in New Jersey on this date in 1955. His other films include Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, The Celluloid Closet, Paragraph 175, and the full-length feature about Allen Ginsberg, Howl. Word Is Out (1977) focused on twenty-six gay people recounting their experiences of oppression, their coming out, and their hopes for the future. It was a groundbreaking portrait of GLBTQ life in the United States. Paragraph 175 told of the 1871 German national law prohibiting sex between men, which was applied by the Nazis to arrest more than 100,000 homosexuals throughout Germany and incarcerate up to 15,000 of them in concentration camps. Epstein’s most recent film was Lovelace, the story of the woman who starred in Deep Throat, the porn film that “crossed over” into mainstream acceptance. In addition to his Oscars, Friedman has received five Emmy Awards, three Peabodys and both a Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowship. To see one of the animated sequences from Howl, look below.
“We were, as filmmakers, going out to ask the question of ourselves — ‘Who are we?’ — at a point where nobody knew the answer, not even gay people.” —Rob Epstein