a film by Robert Oppel
2011 | 78 mins | US
›› Uncle Bob
an uninhibited tribute to Robert Opel and times that once were.
Uncle Bob by Robert Oppel Told through the eyes of his nephew, here writer and director Robert Oppel delivers an uninhibited documentary that is as much a fond remembrance to his "freedom of sexual restraint" Uncle, as it is a work in three parts.

Dropping the second P from his surname, gay rights activist Robert Opel rocketed to overnight fame when during the 46th Academy Awards® presentation of 1974 he streaked his way into the homes of middle America, leaving the nation shocked and the host, one David Niven proving that and whether staged or not, the show must go on. Only this is more than just a celebration of Opel's life as noted San Francisco gallery owner, photographer, performance artist, stage (of Divine fame) producer and a man who was only too willing to drop all for a cause. Then again, public exhibition was nothing new to Opel, having bared all during a heated City Hall debate over nudity on the beaches. Yet and unlike Hollywood, Los Angeles Police Chief Ed Davis was not amused, resulting with Opel receiving a four month prison, later probation term.

Uncle Bob by Robert Oppel A somber note that marks a change of tone, as in act two the hitherto joyous feel of '60s styled sexual liberation gives way to times that were rapidly a-changing into a politically turbulent era. For here we're talking of names that need no introduction; from the courageous pro gay voice that was Harvey Milk, to his polar opposites in the form of Anita Bryant and John Briggs and their vile homophobic campaign that resulted with all too many innocent individuals at the end of its bloody wrath.

Only for the Oppel family darker days lay ahead, given Harvey Milk was not the only outspoken activist to meet an early demise, as Opel would come to find himself literally in the line of fire. And it is at this point of the proceedings and as to be somewhat expected, things get personal, as Opel's nephew and namesake sets out on an uphill struggle to sort fact from fiction as to how his Uncle meet his violent end in July 1979, only to be met with a seemingly never ending series of barriers and restrictions, let alone revelations that would cause conspiracy theorists to have a field day. Thankfully in his quest to discover the truth he meets up with Camille O'Grady; artist and then girlfriend of Uncle Bob, who was present on the fateful night and who here emotionally retraces the events that tragically took place. As too does Oppel is a series of often surreal re-enactments.

The result is a compelling, at times photographically explicit documentary that heavily intercut with archive footage of the man himself, together with revealing recollections from those who knew him, is as much a tribute to Opel and his radical lifestyle and here cue his controversial stage play "The Execution of Dan White," as it is an insightful lesson on the gay rights movement itself. That Oppel throws himself into his work is all but clear, as too it is all but obvious that the spirit of his Uncle lives on through him and a sexuality that is beautifully none pigeon-holed. And yet whilst the copious full monty is present throughout in true Opel fashion, oddly footage of the event for which he is noted for is nowhere to be seen, leaving David Niven's "shortcomings" adlib left blowing in the cinematic wind.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - the copious full monty. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 

›› Available to buy from Amazon.com.
available on DVD as part of the Breaking Glass Pictures catalogue: 25.October.2011.
featuring friends of Uncle Bob:-
Robert Oppel / nephew of Uncle Bob, Abel Ferrara / filmmaker, Rumi Missabu / original member of The Cockettes,
HRH Lee Mentley / artist and owner of Hula Palace Salon, Camille O'Grady / artist and girlfriend
of Uncle Bob, Steve Fabus / DJ and artist, Daniel Nicolleta / photographer and queer
historian, Bill Bowers / artist, Mark Thompson / journalist and screenwriter
of "Streaker," Jack Fritscher / author, Jim Stewart / photographer
and a cast of re-enactments.
dedicated to the memory of Robert Opel: 23rd October, 1939 - 7th July, 1979.
Copyright 2011 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #440
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