(1995) 88 minutes
16 mm rentals and purchase, Jill Godmilow, 219-631-7167
DVD sales and rentals, Facets Multimedia, 800-331-6197

From one of the seminal theatrical events of the 90's - Ron Vawter's stunning performance piece ROY COHN/JACK SMITH - Jill Godmilow has crafted a dramatically deft, comic and terrifying film diptych of queer-on-queer. Roy Cohn, the homophobic right-wing lawyer and sleazy back-room politico, thunders against the Sodom and Gomorrah of homosexuality at a banquet for the American Society for the Protection of the Family - while across town and light years away, the notorious underground filmmaker of "Flaming Creatures" fame, Jack Smith, in flamboyant harem drag, constructs his own private resistance theatre from fragments of Arabian Nights kitsch, avant-garde film feuds and passionate B movie camp. Vawter performs both men exquisitely in this film about the closet, where silence is powerful, but from which, both of these infamous homosexuals from the repressive and punishing 50's, leak out privileged knowledge of Queerness in brilliant performances of their own - Cohn using politics as a form of drag and Smith turning drag into an extraordinary form of politics, pathos and jouissance. Cohn and Smith had nothing in common except their homosexuality and their death from AIDS in the late 1980's. Vawter, who accepts and produces both men in his own voice and body, also died of AIDS, six months after the film was shot.


from La Stampa, Gianni Rondolino
Intense, almost shouted or screamed, in a style strongly characterized by the presence of such an extraordinary actor as Ron Vawter, is the diptych ROY COHN/JACK SMITH by Jill Godmilow. It's a beautiful American independent film, standing between reality and fiction, documentary and entertainment, among the most stimulating and provocative seen at Berlin. The film is a cinematic translation of a theatre piece in which Vawter interprets the double role of the lawyer Roy Cohn, one of McCarthy's red- baiting prosecutors, reactionary, racist, a person who conducted a ferocious battle against the civil rights of homosexuals (although he himself was homosexual), and of Jack Smith, avant garde director, actor and author of the scandal-provoking film "Flaming Creatures", for whom homosexuality was the essence itself of his art.

Both dead of AIDS, Cohn at 59 in 1986 and Smith at 57 in 1989, these two personas are resurrected in a performance by Vawter in a contrast of stance - political and moral, ideological and cultural - using tones of voice, gestures, looks and words that shed light on their abysmal differences. It's from this contrast, which the movie underlines with great efficiency through a structure of alternating appearances, that is born, little by little, a sensation of undoing, of sadness, of finitude."

selected festivals
Toronto Film Festival
Berlin Film Festival
Lisbon Arts Festival
Montreal Festival of Nouveau Cinema
Jerusalem Film Festival
Melbourne & Sydney Film Festivals, Australia
Galway Film Festival, Ireland
Out in Africa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Johannesburg
Torino International Festival of Films About Homosexuality
Festival du Film Gay et Lesbien, Paris
Boston Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
Troia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Portugal
San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
Philadelphia Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
broadcast in The Netherlands, Canada