Uncle Bob
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Uncle Bob

USA, 2009, 80 Minute Running Time
US Premiere
Genre/Subjects: Activism, Biography / History, Gay, Parenting / Family, Politics
Program: Documentary
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Robert Oppel

As David Niven was speaking at the 1974 Academy Awards telecast, a long-haired naked man streaked past him and into Oscar legend. Niven’s riposte — “Probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings!” — proved wrong. Robert Opel got more than just laughs “stripping off” in his brief but colorful career in San Francisco’s pansexual underground arts world.

First as a photographer for underground magazines and a performance artist, then as a gallery owner, Opel promoted the fusion of sexuality and politics in art too taboo for mainstream outlets. He moved queer art off gay-bar walls and into his pioneering gallery, FeyWay Studios. Here he mingled with and presented artists such as Tom of Finland, the Cockettes, Divine, Robert Mapplethorpe, Douglas Farmer and Camille O’Grady, his lover.

It was an especially turbulent time for gays: Anita Bryant’s crusade, the Briggs Initiative, the Milk-Moscone assassination and the ensuing trial of Dan White. When Opel himself was shot to death in his gallery in 1979, many believed it was not due to the reported drug deal gone wrong but police retaliation for his performance just days before of a mock execution of murderer Dan White, by “Gay Justice.”

Years after Opel’s death, his nephew and name-sake launched an investigation into his life and murder. In this riveting tribute, his findings, dramatized in re-enactments that pay homage to 1970s underground cinema, cry out for answers to mysteries never solved. — FRAKO LODEN

Text Voting Code: D320

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