Picture: C Sound: C Extras: C- Film: B+
The producer/director documentary filmmaking team
of Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman has been one of the most prolific in all
of documentary films. Their previous
films, The Times Of Harvey Milk, Common Threads: Tales From The Quilt,
and The Celluloid Closet have been
the epitome of excellence in a field that may be one of the most competitive in
all of filmmaking. Their new film, Paragraph 175 (2000) continues their
The title refers to the insane German law
(extending outside of the country for reasons best explained in the
documentary) that targeted homosexual males, not even lesbian females, for many
decades, beginning in 1871. This film
shows its implementation, then its nightmarish expansion during the Nazi
years. The film also looks at how
little has changed since the Nazis were in power, as well as how international
homophobia continues to destroy countless lives when it is state sponsored.
The documentary combines older film footage with
new interviews taped in the analog PAL format, which matches the frame rate of
actual sound film. This is common
practice in documentary filmmaking, and even in dramatic TV production in
countries like England. The result is an average presentation typical of the
varied nature all such documentaries offer.
The anamorphic 1.78 X 1 presentation is a real plus in making this come
alive, but increasing the fidelity to bring home the priceless points the
The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is stereo and can
actually be played back in Pro Logic.
The film offers a smart used of classic songs, along with the interview
talking, and narration by actor Rupert Everett. All is clear, even when it is in a foreign language. Fidelity is not bad, but adds the older
audio and other problems all documentary location taping offers, and the
presentation of the sound is also average.
The subject is so vital and compelling, that fidelity is far from the
most important issue concerning this particular DVD title, but knowing the
presentation is as good as they could make it helps get its points across.
A law is passed against homosexual males in 1871
Germany, which is accelerated hen the Nazi’s take power over 60 years later, in
part to stop the first gay civil rights movement. The results are sinister,
catastrophic to gays & their advanced culture, and the fallout afterwards
in some ways even more shocking.
Before getting to the actual DVD, there is a very
informative viewer’s guide pull-out inside the DVD case that is exceptional for
its limited space, but also offers websites to visit. The DVD itself has the original theatrical trailer for the film,
as well as for L.I.E., Taboo, A Love
Divided, and Happenstance in a
section that discusses First Run Features.
This includes other titles among the covers for these titles, which can
be clicked on to for their trailers. 7
frame pages of text about the company, and its history to date, follow. Finally, there is a section of additional
interview footage that runs 11:45.
The interviewees included Gad Beck, Albrecht
Becker, Heinz Dormer, Annette Eick, Heinz F., Karl Gorath, and Pierre
Seel. Primarily Dr. Klaus Muller
conducted the interviews. Narration is
by actor Rupert Everett. Editing by
Dawn Logsdon, Written by Sharon Wood, Music by Tibor Szemzo, Camerawork by
Bernd Meiners, Co-production by Howard Rosenman, Produced by Michael Ehrenzweig
& Janet Cole, and Produced & Directed by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey
The main program could have and should have gone on
far longer than it had. Materials in
the paper pullout from the DVD suggest the program stopped short in a few too
many places, but the extras help make up for that minor inconsistency. As a package, this is up there with Berkeley
In The Sixties and the many great Criterion documentary releases in being among
the best issued on DVD to date.
One of the great ironies is that Hitler built his
empire on the SA Brownshirts, who were founded and led by a known homosexual
Ernst Rohm. He lasted until it became
too inconvenient to keep him, when he was killed in an infamous purge within
the ranks. Then, things got
increasingly ugly for all gays in Germany.
The gay culture and world they destroyed was amazingly advanced, but as
we all know, the Nazis were just warming up.
The fact that none of these men got reparations, or
that 175 was officially abolished up to a century after its founding is one of
the all-time outrages. It was only a
year AFTER this film that Germany officially acknowledged that homosexuals were
even Nazi victims! The fact that the
Nazi propaganda footage used here has any royalties attached to it, let alone
the highest around, and that all the money goes to the German government is
unbelievable. There is not enough room
in this (or any) review to cover how ugly this gets or how great Paragraph 175 is, but this DVD is a
serious must-see and must-have shedding light where darkness has reigned far