LGBTQ HISTORY MONTH IS HERE and with it, new documentaries to take note of: “My Name is Pauli Murray” and “The Capote Tapes”

Last Updated: October 1, 2021By Tags: , , ,

There are some especially strong documentaries out there to see to celebrate some LGBTQ Americans who have made incredible contributions to this land, its culture and, more importantly, its present.

“My Name Is Pauli Murray”

Directors: Julie Cohen and Betsy West

Pauli Murray (featured image) might be among the most important lawyers of the twentieth century that most of us (myself included) had never heard of.  Orphaned at a young age, Murray was raised by her aunt in Baltimore, an area which, despite its northern latitudes, was certainly no stranger to segregation.

Murray’s road would get no easier, but hers is a study in extreme perseverance.  She realized early in adulthood that she was gender-nonconforming, and while living in New York in the thirties, began using “Pauli” instead of her birth name “Anna Pauline.”  She even unsuccessfully sought the advice of doctors, convinced that she was in fact a man beneath her exterior.

She also sent many a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, nudging him to not forget, in his effort to save the nation from Depression, the plight of Blacks throughout the country  (infamously, though not addressed in the film, FDR’s New Deal policies for low-cost mortgages applied to whites only).  Eleanor Roosevelt provided a welcome sounding board for Murray, thus launching an unlikely alliance that would last for decades.

Law school at Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington, D.C., (which was then a segregated city) and anti-discrimination campaigns followed—and in the years before Brown v. Board would reverse officially sanctioned segregation in education.  All the Murray faced the triple discriminations of being a woman, black and gay.  Murray even dubbed such endemic discrimination against black women “Jane Crow.”

Never content to cease growing, late in life Murray even became an Episcopalian priest.

Talking heads in the documentary are varied, including the longtime nonvoting representative for D.C., Eleanor Holmes Norton, and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, all of whom make the case that where the United States is now would not have been possible without Murray’s bravery and courage.

Now in select theaters, and available on Amazon Prime beginning October 1st. 

Filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West

“The Capote Tapes”

Director: Ebs Burnough

Truman Capote was mysterious and unusual, and if Ebs Burnough’s new documentary is to be believed, Capote was as sure to burn a bridge—wittingly or otherwise—as to build new ones.  Burnough’s documentary film provides long-forgotten recordings the “In Cold Blood” writer made, which serves as the springboard for a sordid tale of New York high society, in which Capote felt himself most at home.

In his latter years, he teased his fans with a tell-all book about that very realm, “Answered Prayers.”  For years he tantalized, and the New York elite feared what he might write; even though Capote vowed it would be fiction, it would inevitably be as close to life as “In Cold Blood,” leaving his reputation in tatters after that.

“The Capote Tapes” offers a new and fascinating look at one of our most compelling writers, one whose mystique has grown with time.

Available for streaming now.

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