Friend of Essex, a new documentary created by 23-year-old Amir Dixon, explores the struggles of young black gay men. The film gets it title from late black gay writer, poet, producer and activist Essex Hemphill, who died from AIDS-related complications in 1995. The film also was inspired by filmmaker and writer Marlon Riggs, the creator of 1989's Tongue Untied, which also documented the experiences of black gay men.
Through a series of interviews, the documentary covers topics such as masculinity in gay culture, identity, sexuality and race and religion. Friend of Essex has been screened at many colleges, community centers and other venues since its release in January. Dixon has also made the brave step to screen the film in Uganda in April. The country is currently still considering the controversial "Kill The Gays" bill, and its strict anti-gay laws have forced Dixon to do only screening on a private, invite-only basis.
Dixon told The Advocate "When I started production on my film I had met a young man from Uganda who had just moved to the states. He shared with me firsthand what was taking place in Uganda and the work that we as a community could do to support the LGBTQ community there.”
He said he ultimately sees Friend of Essex as a way to "empower the voiceless. I want that little kid that lives in Small Town, U.S.A., and doesn't encounter anyone that looks like them to know that I do this for them. I fight every day for them."
Dates and times for future screenings are available on Dixon's website. Watch the trailer for Friend Of Essex below.