Ed Buck is a monster. A maniacal, meth-addicted sexual predator. And a racist for good measure. So it’s not surprising that “Beyond Ed Buck,” the new documentary from Jayce Baron and “Pose” star Hailie Sahar, is a very difficult film to watch.
The story is tragically sad. Buck, a major donor to the Democratic party, convinced down-on-their-luck Black men to come to his West Hollywood apartment. There, he would inject them with hard drugs, including methamphetamine, and have sex with them when they were often too stoned to give consent. The pervert might still be in business if it hadn’t been for two men who died in his sex den. And, more tragic still, it wasn’t until a third man overdosed in the apartment — this one lived — that authorities really began investigating Buck, an investigation that would lead to his arrest and eventual conviction on all charges.
While the doc tells some of Buck’s story, it also explores broader themes, like life in West Hollywood, the fetishization of Black men by gay white men, and the history of Black oppression in the United States. Then the subject segues into Trans Lives Matters and, specifically, the struggle of Black trans women. As the recent death of Naomie Skinner here in Detroit clearly illustrates, the plight of Black trans women is a timely subject. Still, the senseless slaughter of Black trans women is really a subject worthy of its own complete documentary, or, for that matter, a series of documentaries.
Likewise, as the Investigation Discovery Channel-watching true crime buff that I am, I felt the film did not do the Buck case — or more precisely his victims — any real justice. Who was Ed Buck, really, and how did he evolve into the monster he became? And who, really, were his victims? Gemmel Moore was only 26. Buck, we learn from the film, actually got Moore addicted to meth before he supplied Moore with the drugs that led to his overdose. Moore was, for good reason, scared of Buck.
And Timothy Dean, 55, the second victim, is known to many gay men as a former porn star, the power top known as Hole Hunter. Dean retired from porn several years ago. He went on to work at Saks Fifth Avenue and was actively involved in his church. He had warned friends to stay away from Buck.
But I was left wanting to know more about these two men and how they came to encounter Buck. I would have also appreciated hearing more about his trial and ultimate conviction, his sentence and where he is today. The story just felt incomplete.
For the film’s second half, we hear from several trans women about their experiences and their path toward finding self-worth and acceptance. A good portion of time is dedicated to the story of Brian Powers, aka Egypt, an individual who identified as both a gay male and a trans woman who was shot to death in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
I had not, sadly but not surprisingly, heard about this case. It remains, like the murders of so many other Black trans women, unsolved. And that’s a story all in itself.
“Beyond Ed Buck” is currently streaming on ALLBLK.