Meet the leaders of the LGBTQ+ equality movement in ‘I Am’
Martin Luther King Jr. Susan B. Anthony. Catherine Jeffrey Jones. These three people are remembered as trailblazers for equal rights because they were unapologetic about who they were. Yet there are hardly any tributes to the work of Catherine Jeffrey Jones and how she was a trailblazing trans artist.
The new documentary I Am directed by Laura Arten is trying to give a platform to LGBTQ+ artists who aren’t as revered by the public. People like Jones, Marlow Moss, Jackie Curtis, and more are given their time in the sun thanks to Arten, with their work and activism on full display.
By focusing on these lesser known activists, I Am becomes a tool to show how far reaching the fight for LGBTQ+ equality has been for years. It’s not just a documentary to learn about these activists forgotten to time, but to see how important this fight has been.
Shine the light on different artists
Now, the activists featured in I Am are far from forgotten. Catherine Jeffrey Jones is a Hugo Award-winning artist, and Jackie Curtis was a common actress in Andy Warhol films. But little is truly remembered of the effect these people had on the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
Of course, none of these people were “activists” in the formal sense, but through living their truth and not hiding their LGBTQ+ identity, they end up changing the world anyway. Therefore, they deserve to be remembered alongside activists like Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, and Keith Haring.
Yet in the eyes of I Am, by being themselves, they were just as big of an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. All the people featured in the documentary have contributed to the world in a variety of ways, while also being LGBTQ+ in some capacity.
Recreating the lives of idols
Rather than just show footage and still images of these trailblazing artists, director Laura Arten uses voice over and the person’s art to convey their impact on LGBTQ+ rights. It’s such a subtle change compared to other documentaries, but it makes these people feel that much more important in the long run.
Since these figures made history through their art, it makes sense to focus on the legacy they left behind through that. But with different voice actors portraying these figures through voiceover, it feels like we’re listening to the figures themselves explain the effect they hope they left on the equal rights movement.
Bringing forgotten art to life
When discussing LGBTQ+ artists, many of the names featured in I Am are artists left off major lists. While their art is influential, the pieces themselves are overlooked by the general public. In I Am though, you’d think these pieces are the most famous pieces in the entire world.
Things like adding motion to Catherine Jeffrey Jones’s paintings, or animating Marlow Moss’s sculpture work, give new life to these already iconic works. Just like the people who created it, these pieces of art are revived thanks to I Am.
While production on I Am has concluded, there’s still a chance more LGBTQ+ figures will be remembered for their impact on the world around them. As part of promotion for I Am, Laura Arten wants other people to share their self portraits and embrace the impact they leave on the world every day.
Through these self portraits, Arten has material for another batch of I Am shorts if she so chooses. Hopefully she will, because the works of I Am so far are inspirational and showcase how wide your work can have an impact without even knowing.