The Lavender Scare is a new documentary film directed by Josh Howard and narrated by Glenn Close. The movie explores the eponymous era in Cold War politics, in which LGBTQ individuals, particularly those employed by the United States government, were targeted and discriminated against unfairly.
This film does an excellent job of presenting a little known part of a well-known event (the Cold War) with a perspective that is interesting and often enlightening. The movie showcases multiple personal stories from people who were victims of this time period, and it is fascinating to see what they have to say, offering a unique snapshot of the era.
The film was also able to make the story into something more cinematic than it might otherwise be. Although systematic discrimination and oppression is certainly an important topic of discussion, watching a bunch of people get fired from their jobs isn’t necessarily what you would expect to be the plot of a movie. However, Howard places the events of the movie in the greater context of the Red Scare, in turn making the film feel far more exciting.
Ultimately, the movie’s main goal is to promote inclusivity and open-mindedness, but the film also contains plenty of other messages by which people can and should be inspired. For example, the perseverance which these people exhibit in the face of adversity is truly inspiring. It is hard not to be impressed by how these people held their heads high and continue to do so despite the risks they faced in so doing.
The runtime of the movie is quite short, especially for a documentary, clocking in at just over an hour and a quarter, which works in the favor of the film. Longer documentaries have a tendency to ramble, and as a result of this movie being significantly shorter, it doesn’t really have enough time to go on unnecessary tangents. That said, the film does have plenty of time to explore the subject material with adequate depth.
Glenn Close’s narration of the movie is solid but not entirely necessary. The people are able to tell their stories well enough, so her inclusion seems to be for little more purpose than having an established name attached to the film. Furthermore, even her voice isn’t particularly memorable. Sometimes, the narrator can make a documentary stand out, as is the case with Morgan Freeman and March of the Penguins. This movie does not have that benefit.
On a technical level, this film is quite well-done, if a tad traditional. The filmmakers do a good enough job of combining footage and interviews into a final product that will keep your interest more than enough to deliver the information and message. Perhaps a bit more creativity could have helped the movie land even better, but it works just fine as-is.
Overall, The Lavender Scare was a fascinating documentary. If you are interested in the Cold War, this is one you absolutely won’t want to miss.
The Lavender Scare opens in theaters on June 7 and airs on PBS on June 18.