REVIEWS: More than Mr. Sulu; Wakefield Poole’s many lives

Aug. 14, 2014 @ 09:26 AM

“To Be Takei,” directed by Jennifer M. Kroot
(screening at 9:10 p.m. Friday in Fletcher Hall;
and at 11:10 p.m. Saturday in Cinema Two)

“Star Trek” fans know George Takei as Mr. Sulu, the pilot of the Star Ship Enterprise (or, as Takei says in this documentary, “the greatest helmsman of the galaxy”). In Jennifer M. Kroot’s documentary, we see Takei signing pictures at Comicon events, and we hear reminiscences from his “Star Trek” colleagues. But Kroot also shows Takei discussing his work as a public servant (he has served on several committees in Los Angeles government), as an advocate for marriage equality rights and for reparations for Japanese-American interned on the West Coast in World War II. His husband, Brad Altman, is his constant companion in this film, serving as his master of detail at Comicon and other events.
Takei gives a moving speech at the Clinton School of Public Service (where he received the 2011 Visionary Award). Listen to Takei talk about the irony of saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the internment camp when he was a child – in a place with barbed wire and tar paper shacks -- and if you don’t shed part of a tear you have no heart. (Takei collaborated on a musical about that experience, titled “Allegiance.”) Takei’s bountiful  sense of humor also comes through in this video.
Warning to William Shatner fans: There are some good-natured jokes here at his expense.

--Cliff Bellamy, The Herald-Sun

“I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole,” directed by Jim Tushinski (screening Sunday at 3 p.m. in Fletcher Hall,
and Wednesday at 9:20 p.m. in Cinema two.)

Born in Salisbury, North Carolina, Wakefield Poole grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, where he developed a love of movies (he could attend movies for free because of his father’s occupation as police officer), as well as dance and ballet. A teacher recommended him to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo School in New York, where he became a student and perfected his art. He danced on Broadway and television, toured internationally, and helped choreograph the show “Do I Hear a Waltz?” When that career faltered, he began working with a camera and in 1971 made “Boys in the Sand,” considered a breakthrough in gay erotic films for the way it portrayed gay men. He later made “Bijou,” along with other experimental films, among them “Freedom Day Parade,” a documentary about the San Francisco gay pride parade.
Director Jim Tushinski uses archival footage along with interviews of Poole’s friends and associates as he follows Poole through his travels from New York to San Francisco, where he met Harvey Milk and helped run a store called Hot Flash, which became an important center of gay activism in the 1970s. Tushinski does a skillful job of placing Poole’s life and work within the tragedies and triumphs of this time.

--Cliff Bellamy, The Herald-Sun