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An interview with Chris Amos, director of the upcoming documentary “Hating Peter Tatchell.”
First of all, why do you feel it’s so important to make this film?
When I first met Peter Tatchell 16 years ago I admired his point of view and his common sense. Also his dedication to campaign work for human rights all around the world not just in the U.K. The passion is incredible. I have come to appreciate firsthand Peter’s eccentricities, his meticulous organisational detail and bravery defending human rights. But despite his efforts, he has come under severe criticism. He is the person who for decades the media and critics loved to hate. Through this documentary, audiences will have the chance to meet the real man and hear the true story. Peter grew up in Australia in a family dominated by church life; he is an Australian legend, someone who never gives up for what he believes in. Really, Peter epitomises what it is to be an “Aussie battler.” He has based himself in London to achieve his ambitions. In doing so he has been able to give himself a far reaching platform to speak out against human rights. I think audiences will be inspired by his life.
Why is the film titled “Hating Peter Tatchell”?
I don’t want this film to just glorify and praise Peter’s work. I will be showing this film through the eyes of people who have criticised Peter over the past 50 years. I want to see how they were affected by Peter’s direct action campaigns and see what their opinions are now in hindsight. I don’t know if this will be a negative or positive response, but as a documentary filmmaker I am hoping audiences will be more engaged to see how his opponents justify their viewpoints on the hot topics.
What impact do you think this film will have on the LGBTIQ community and the community as a whole?
The best documentaries are ones that make you feel something, that make you want to do something. If by sharing Peter’s life story, this inspires people to go out and campaign for something they believe in, to go and fight injustice, then I will have made the film I wanted. Peter is a shining example how one person can make the world a better place. Also, I want to show audiences how Peter’s campaigns have affected people. At the time many were upset by his Easter sermon protest but you know what, it made the Church of England think about their position on LGBT issues and brought them to the negotiation table. The list of causes he has helped move forward is considerable.
Why do you think Peter Tatchell was subject to hate for so long, and why has that perception now changed?
Society is usually unkind to those who shake up the status quo. People are afraid of change. Also in Peter’s case, he makes people have to think about their own views on human rights issues. Sometimes facing ugly truths can be a terrible shaming. A lot of people feel his direct action tactics are a step too far, too confrontational. But Peter is actually one of the most peaceful people I have met. He is non-violent and uses words, not weapons, to make his point. He has spoken out for human rights abuses when others have stayed silent. Next year he will have been doing this for 50 years! It is hard not to respect someone who has given their life to righting wrongs in society, even if you do have a different opinion.
How did it come about getting Sir Ian McKellen on board?
Peter has a lot of celebrity supporters, including Sir Ian McKellen who is a patron of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and he himself is a longstanding human rights activist and supported many campaigns. Having Sir Ian narrate this film will hopefully help the documentary reach audiences who might not have wanted to watch this film. Hopefully, when they do watch, they will see the admirable qualities that Sir Ian and I both see in Peter.
How different have you found the LGBT culture in London compared to Australia where you and Peter both grew up?
I was a child growing up in a small town — an Australian town, Rockhampton, in the ’80s — and our family were friends with lesbian families. At first, growing up, I was unaware of any stigma. By the time I was 12 years old, in grade 8 at school, I started to realise I was gay. The other children at school were starting to tweak too. I was bullied by them, name calling mainly, and excluded from peer groups. The pressure made me beg to leave Rockhampton to go to boarding school in Brisbane instead. Which didn’t really help matters as I was bullied there too! My nickname was “Gaymos.” It is hard growing up in Australia as a gay person. Especially when the government does not give the community the equal right, which basically tells bigots that we are not equal to the straight community. When I meet people overseas, they are surprised to hear me tell them how homophobic Australia is as they perceive it to be a very liberal society. London, on the other hand, draws a lot of gay people to live here because they can be accepted and integrate much more easily. In fact, we are celebrated here.
How will the documentary be made?
I am going to tell Peter’s story chronologically using archive footage, photos, news reports, music, what ever media I can get my hands on to tell this narrative for the that particular period of time in the film. This will be intercut with exclusive interviews with people who were involved at that point in Peter’s life. I will hold back using footage of Peter as he is today until the final act of the film. I want people to watch the film to see Peter grow up on screen in a narrative way, so they follow his life. Each moment in his life impacts on the next. I am a big fan of the “Seven Up!” films and in a way, this film will be similar storytelling. Given how much excitement has surrounded Peter’s life and the events he has been a part of, I expect audiences will be glued to their seats.
Why do you want to make the documentary now and why crowdfund this film?
In 2017, Peter will have been campaigning for human rights for 50 years. This is a milestone that needs to be acknowledged. It is also timely because showing how much has been achieved in the past 50 years, we can all have hope that even more injustices will be put right over the next 50 years. Especially at a time like now, when it sometimes feel like we are going backwards when caring about human rights, we need to be reminded this is a fight that never ends and that through persistence and people like Peter Tatchell there is hope. The crowdfunding campaign partly funds the film and gives the public a chance to participate in the filmmaking and support this documentary. If you wish to pledge to help make the film, this must be done by Oct. 12 here.