Out of the Past


Middle 40-60% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

1998 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Documentary Competition

Non-Cast Credits

Jeff Dupre, Michelle Ferrari, Eliza Byard, Andrew tobais, Buddy Squires, Toby Shimin, George O'Donnell, Matthias Gohl, Stephen Spinella, Gwyneth Paltrow, cherry Jones, Edward Norton, Leland Gantt


ut of the Past explores the complicated influence of American history on the gay and lesbian community today. The film centers on the experience of seventeen-year-old Kelli Peterson, who attempted to form a Gay-Straight Alliance at her Salt Lake City high school last year. Her efforts were suppressed by her community and, ultimately, the Utah State Legislature, which went so far as to pass a law banning all extracurricular clubs in order to prevent the Gay-Straight Alliance from convening. The film explores the historical marginalization of gays and lesbians through Peterson's eyes as she comes to terms with herself and her place in the world.

In conversations with her parents and friends, Peterson discusses the isolation she experiences, her decision to come out, and her fight for equality. Peterson's struggle frames portraits of several gay and lesbian historical figures who have been obscured by mainstream historical accounts. Actors (including Gwyneth Paltrow and Edward Norton) voice the writings of Puritan cleric Michael Wigglesworth, nineteenth-century novelist Sarah Orne Jewett, gay-rights leader Henry Gerber, and African-American civil rights activist l3ayard Rustin. Commentary by contemporary figures like George Chauncey, Lillian Faderman, and Reverend Peter Gomes rounds out this richly layered exploration of the evolution of the gay and lesbian community.

At its core, Out of the Past is a dialogue about the nature of history itself. The film argues powerfully for the inclusion of all minority groups in American history, while it reminds us of the painful alienation gay and lesbian teens experience across the nation.


Lisanne Skyler (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.