With so much national attention paid to teen bullying and the struggles of LGBT youth, the film Geography Club debuts on movie screens nationally at an appropriate time. It is a film that could have saved lives years ago, but it still pushes the envelope today, carrying a strong social message in a sincere cinematic package, creatively directed, sensitively written, and artistically produced.
As the adult LGBT community finds more and more of a place at the table in our larger community's social and political life, we forget how difficult it can still be for young adults all across America.
Let's face it; high school can be brutal, maybe even worse than a Miami Dolphins locker room. So a film about a star high-school quarterback coming to grips with his sexuality can score a touchdown. Yes, we have a long way, and the success of Glee on network TV is testimony to that.
When Equality Florida gave Broward County Schools its annual achievement award a few days ago, it acknowledged the progressive steps our community has taken to treat LGBT students equally and fairly. Years ago, there were no such schools, and no such awards. In many places, it is still so: there are no "geography clubs."
You see, "the Geography Club" is a front for a teen LGBT support group some closeted kids set up in a local high school. It lets them keep a straight façade while being gay with each other. Any adult today who harbored and hid his homosexual youth yesterday knows the game and lived the charade. The fear of being 'found out' was a consuming fury within.
This film reaches its peak when the main characters, the star school quarterback and his would-be lover, Russell and Kevin, face tests of their character brought on by their interactions with homophobic students. A young man is called upon to do the right thing in the face of peer pressure. Do you come out of the closet and get beat up by others, or stay inside and beat yourself up? It's a choice many of you faced back when, and kids face today still.
Geography Club will make that choice safer and surer. This film has a positive, feel-good message; as it shows, the struggle can be amusing and make you laugh. It does not have to make you cry. It can enhance your being, not empty your soul. You can find out who you are on one hand, and the importance of friendship on the other. Most of all, you learn the things you think are intimately most personal are universally most common.
The producer, Michael Huffington, stated in an interview, "This is a story of each of us finding our true selves, which will resonate with anyone who attended high school for decades to come."
Said its director, Gary Entin, "We loved the idea of making a mainstream film where your lead character is gay and treat it with the same bells and whistles as any coming-of-age/love story. Inside, we are all outcasts; we all feel insecure, from the high school quarterback to the less popular student. This film levels the playing field."
This is a movie that will take you back to your own high school yearbook, and remind you of the way you felt when you were not allowed to express the way you felt. Yes, we have moved forward, but there are still yards to go and milestones to reach before universal equality is at our doorstep.
The Brett Hartinger book was a hit when it was released a decade ago, and the film still has relevance today to teens and adults. It stars Cameron Deane Stewart and a supporting cast that includes Scott Bakula, Ana Gasteyer, Nikki Blonsky and Glee's Alex Newell. "Geography Club" picked up the Audience Award for Best First Feature at this summer's Outfest LGBT Film Festival in Los Angeles.
For me, this film has a special appeal and local touch. Alvin Entin, one of my best friends for decades, is also one of the finest and most respected lawyers in South Florida, once a Republican congressional candidate. Aside from his artful and distinguished advocacy, Alvin is the proud father of six children. Today he has reason to be not just proud, but very proud. Two of those six children are 28-year-olds Gary and Edmund, identical twins, and they are the director and writer of Geography Club. They also both happen to be polite, professional, good looking young gay men.
Gary and Edmund are extraordinarily talented artists who got started in the entertainment industry with filmmaking as teenagers right here in South Florida; in the same schools which just won an award for standing up to bullying. Now living in southern California, and creating films, the Entin twins, Gary and Edmund, have a number of acting, writing and directing projects under their belt. You will be seeing many more for a long time to come.
While playing a number of gay and lesbian film festivals earlier this year, Geography Club has just been released nationally On Demand and to local outlets.
Image of Gary and Edmund Entin via Tumblr.