"Directed by award-winner Jeffrey Schwarz, VITO paints a touching portrait of this outspoken
activist in the LGBT community’s struggle for equal rights, using period footage and film
clips to capture a vibrant era of gay culture. “If you’re going to talk about the gay-rights
movement, you’re going to talk about Vito,” says journalist David Ehrenstein.
The documentary features rich archival interviews with Vito, as well as insights from gay
rights activists, including: Larry Kramer and Arthur Evans; film scholars, among them
former MoMA film curator Jon Gartenberg; and journalists/writers such as Michael
Schiavi and Gabriel Rotello. VITO also offers personal accounts from his many friends,
including Lily Tomlin and Bruce Vilanch, and his family members, including brother
Charles Russo and cousin Phyllis Antonellis.
Vito’s love of movies guided him to a job in the film department at the Museum of Modern
Art, where he began taking note of gay characters in early films. The result of his research
was “The Celluloid Closet,” an entertaining and informative lecture and clip show that
combined his love of show business and radical gay politics, which he took on the road to
gay film festivals and college campuses. His seminal 1981 book of the same name
explored the ways gays and lesbians were portrayed on film, what lessons those characters
taught gay and straight audiences, and how those negative images were at the root of
society’s homophobia. The book was later adapted into the 1995 HBO Peabody Award-
winning documentary “The Celluloid Closet,” directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman..."