New trailer promotes documentary about LGBT activist Sally Gearhart

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Lecturer of Public Health Deborah Craig is working on a documentary film about 89-year-old Sally Gearhart, professor emeritus at San Francisco State University and radical lesbian feminist who co-founded SF State’s women’s studies program and fought for LGBT rights side-by-side with Harvey Milk in the 1970s. Craig has just completed a brand-new trailer for the project.

Although the pandemic has been a stumbling block, Craig and her team managed to visit and film Gearhart, plus several of her close friends, over Labor Day weekend. Gearhart had to evacuate because of wildfires the day after they left, but fortunately, she’s back home now. The team still needs to film key missing interviews, including some of Gearharts’s oldest friends, in Colorado and Texas, and her half-brother in her home town of Pearisberg, Virginia. Since travel isn’t currently feasible, filming will be done remotely.

Despite posing challenges, COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for Craig to take stock of interviews already recorded — with folks like SF State fomer Lecturer of Health Education Roma Guy and AIDS Quilt founder Cleve Jones, an SF State alumnus. Accomplished nonfiction filmmaker and LGBT film historian Jenni Olson also just joined the team as archival producer. 

Craig hopes to add Gearhart’s important story to its rightful place in the mainstream narrative, but her film won’t be a standard biopic. Instead, it explores the complex relationship between icons like Gearhat and social movements, and has some fun along the way. Craig said, “Ultimately, the film falls somewhere between a wild lesbian safari and a timely and moving meditation on the tensions in revolutionary movements: ideological principles versus human realities, separatism versus mainstreaming, and throwing down the gauntlet versus reaching across the aisle. Gearhart shows us that reaching across the political and philosophical divide is more powerful than preaching to the choir. Her skill and delight in conferring with adversaries might be her most relevant message for our fractious and polarized era.”