Los Angeles (December 16, 2010) — On Saturday, December 11, 2010, the Autry National Center, in association with Focus Features, celebrated the fifth anniversary of the screen debut of Brokeback Mountain with a film screening, a staged reading of excerpts from the book Beyond Brokeback: The Impact of a Film, and a special appearance by Diana Ossana, producer and Oscar-winning screenwriter of the film. The event was part of the acclaimed program Out West at the Autry, a series of public events focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) history and culture in the West with gallery talks, film screenings, lectures, performances, and other cultural events. Also announced was the continuation of Out West at the Autry in Griffith Park and Bozeman, Montana, with more national dates to be announced.
The moving event featured a welcome and presentation presided over by Daniel Finley, Autry President and CEO, in the Autry’s Imagination Gallery, where the Brokeback Mountain shirts are currently on display. David Bohnett, philanthropist and technology entrepreneur, provided the keynote speech [photo] and spoke of his partner, Tom Gregory, owner of the shirts, who generously loaned them for display at the Autry. “Tom's passion for collecting and preserving our history comes from a belief that those that have come before us have left an important legacy through their work and creativity. We would do well as a society to learn from those contributions and foster a culture of respect for our heritage,” he said. Out West at the Autry creator and producer Gregory Hinton also noted, “Greater national attention needs to be paid to the LGBT Western rural communities, who steadfastly maintain visibility with far less assurances and protection than we take for granted in the city. Brokeback Mountain very movingly portrayed the problem, but offered little in the way of a solution. We achieve visibility and normalcy by telling our stories, sharing our culture, and staking our claim in the lodestone of Western American history. This is the mission of Out West at the Autry.”
As the film screening ended and the house lights brightened, guests were greeted by Diana Ossana, producer and Oscar-winning screenwriter of Brokeback Mountain. She thanked the audience for their support of the film and invited them to view the Brokeback Mountain shirts with her in the Autry’s Imagination Gallery (this would be the first time she would see the shirts since working on the film). The emotion-filled gallery was quiet as Ossana stood in a private moment. Moving back to the center of the gallery, she began to speak to the crowd, leading to nearly an hour’s worth of conversation about the film—particularly its leading stars, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. “There are so many memories associated [with the Brokeback Mountain shirts] because I was there,” said Ossana as she contemplated the display. When asked about her passion for creating the film she said, “I’m a woman. I’m not gay, but lightning struck with this film, and it was amazing. I could not let it go. Every time I read the script I would cry again—and I wrote it!” she laughed. “Everyone has a different take on the film. It is a universal love story but the reason it affects people is because it’s specific about two men and it cuts to our hearts. The way people responded, it created dialogue, and I love that.”
After an awe-inspiring in-person conversation with Ossana, the audience filed back into the theatre for the Beyond Brokeback staged reading, adapted by Gregory Hinton and featuring Carolyn Campbell, Tom Gregory, William Handley, Ryan Harrison, Marlene Head, Michael Butler Murray, Lydia Nibley, and Jeffrey Richardson. Each read various excerpts of poignant and humorous messages, essays, and poetry—by writers young and old, male and female, gay and straight—from the book Beyond Brokeback: The Impact of a Film. The book was written by members of an online community, the Ultimate Brokeback Forum, many of whom attended the celebration from as far away as San Francisco, Virginia, New York, and London. Harrison sang the Brokeback-inspired song “Meet Me on the Mountain” from the CD of the same name, written by composer Shawn Kirchner, with Murray on acoustic guitar and Head, Murray, and Nibley adding background vocals. Head also performed “Up All Night,” another song from the same CD, with Harrison, Murray, and Nibley on background.
Brokeback Mountain was produced and released by Focus Features in December 2005. Hinton worked with James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features, to create this fifth-anniversary commemoration—the only Brokeback Mountain anniversary screening of its kind.
Future Out West at the Autry programs include a book event with Heather Hole, Boston Museum of Fine Art curator and author of Marsden Hartley and the American West; a survey of the “Two Spirit” Native American tradition, which honors individuals perceived as having blended male and female spirits; an in-gallery program, Pride in the Saddle: Gay and Lesbian Rodeo; and a book event with Patricia Nell Warren who will discuss her new book My West. In addition, the Bozeman Library Foundation and Montana Pride will present Out West at the Bozeman Library during annual Montana Pride festivities on June 18, 2011, where oral histories will be collected and offered to the Montana Historical Society.
Out West at the Autry continues the dialogue started by the Autry's installation of the iconic shirts worn by stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in the film, as well as the permanent inclusion of the International Gay Rodeo Association's (IGRA) archives into the Autry Library, both facilitated by Gregory Hinton.