VITO, an HBO documentary film about gay rights activist Vito Russo, premieres tonight at the New York Film Festival. The film premieres at 6:00 PM with an encore screening at 9:15 PM.

VITO offers rare insight into one of the most important voices in the birth of contemporary gay culture and AIDS activism.  His book The Celluloid Closet published in 1981 (and updated in 1987), remains a landmark historical work and his co-founding of GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and early activism with ACT UP established Vito Russo as one of the most important civil rights activists in New York and the country.

For over two decades, Vito Russo was a ubiquitous presence in New York, a ravenous, tireless cinephile and critic who became one of the earliest, most important voices in the struggle for gay rights. His two passions came together in an extraordinary book, The Celluloid Closet, a groundbreaking study of gay and lesbian imagery and themes in movies that remains a landmark in the field. Now Jeffrey Schwarz, using some incredible period footage as well as the testimonies of those who knew him best, has created this heartfelt, insightful portrait of Vito that serves simultaneously as a revealing chronicle of the birth of contemporary gay culture and of later AIDS activism. An HBO Documentary FIlms release.

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