Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Timroy Williams, aka “Timothy Dean” or “Tim,” was born March 25, 1963. He died Jan. 7, 2019. He was a 55-year-old Black man. He was also a gay man. He was raised in Florida but moved to Los Angeles. He loved to play basketball. He was friends with Mark Chambers who founded the NGBA in 2003. Tim even went with Chambers to Paris in 2018 to play basketball at the Gay Games there. He graduated from college. He even loved fashion, commenting on such while he watched the Golden Globe Awards the day of his passing. Tim’s death was shocking because he was an athlete. He played basketball. He was in great shape. Yet, he died of a drug overdose but there was a question. Was Tim’s death an accident, or, was Tim killed? Tim died in the apartment of Ed Buck, an elderly white man. Some suspect Buck of killing Tim. The reason is because Tim wasn’t the first to end up dead in Buck’s apartment.
Gemmel Moore, aka “Juelz Carter,” was born Jan. 14, 1991 and died July 27, 2017 at the age of 26. He also died of a drug overdose in the apartment of Ed Buck. He was reportedly the first to die in Buck’s apartment, just as Tim died in Buck’s apartment. In the wake of this, it was revealed that Buck had a pattern of inviting or luring Black men, most likely gay Black men who were vulnerable due to poverty or substance abuse, and abusing them even more with illegal substances, usually through penile injections. It reportedly made this a fetish of Buck, which some believe in the case of Gemmel and Tim led to their deaths.
This is Belgian filmmaker Michiel Thomas’ third feature. It has the most connection though to his debut film called Game Face (2015), which was about LGBTQ athletes in the United States. That 2015 documentary profiled Terrence Clemens, a Black gay man who was a college basketball player. The 2015 flick also depicted an event with the National Gay Basketball Association, or NGBA. Mark Chambers is the founder of the NGBA and is interviewed in this film. Chambers is friends with Tim with whom he played basketball.
We learn that Gemmel and Tim are very interesting people, but, unfortunately, the only reason that we now know their names and the only reason a film was made about them is because they were killed. In that, Thomas’ documentary here could be a companion piece to something like The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017).
Some home movies and photos, along with friends tell the story of Gemmel, whose story feels like it could be an episode in FX’s Pose (2018). The difference here is that it’s not just Gemmel’s house mother fighting for him. It’s also his biological mother who joins the activists and protesters fighting for her son. Her fight was against Ed Buck, who could be arguably described as a white, gay version of Bill Cosby, prior to Cosby’s conviction being vacated. Her fight was also against what has been described as systemic racism that doesn’t care about Black men and certainly not gay Black men. As such, this is a powerful film about the marginalization of two groups of people, as well as being a strong and heartbreaking tribute to two souls unfairly lost.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 28 mins.
Playing at Outfest Los Angeles, in-person & virtually.