“DEAR JESSE”–no cheap shots

“Dear Jesse”

No Cheap Shots

Amos Lassen

Jesse Helms, just the name makes me shudder. He

has done more public and vocal tongue-lashing and condemning of the gay community than anyone since Anita Bryant. Representing North Carolina in the United States Congress, Jesse Helms has been a thorn in our sides for way too long.

Tim Kirkman from Monroe, North Carolina has created a movie about Helms and succeeds in proving that his bigotry is not reflective of the way people in North Carolina feel about us. He gives us a funny, thoughtful and humane film which becomes a transcendent experience. Kirkman never takes a cheap shot at Helms, unlike many of us would have done if we made a film like this. Kirkman makes it very clear how he, himself, feels about Helms and therefore his film cannot in any way be objective and what we get is something akin to a film by Michael Moore—a politically correct agenda which is, indeed, political. Kirkman found many kindred spirits to give his message strength and that includes Jesse Helms, the man, himself. We see Helms saying that if homosexuals would “stop what they’re doing; there would not be one additional case of AIDS in the United States…” (Now that is a brilliant statement). Kirkman takes a good and hard in depth look at intolerance in America.

This film is not new. It was actually released in 1998 as was advertised as a documentary film about the political and personal parallels between the gay filmmaker and the notoriously anti-gay U.S. Senator Jesse Helms. It was shown on TV and was Emmy nominated and won several awards. It has just been released on DVD and it contains several important extras. There is an interview with Matthew Shepard whose murder called national attention to hate crimes.

It is hard to classify this film—it is political inquiry and personal diary as well as a road movie at times. Made up of interviews which are set against the last Senate campaign of Helms, the movie is an eye opener.

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