Outfest Film Review: ‘Gemmel & Tim’

 

Making its world premiere at this year’s Outfest, Gemmel & Tim is a timely documentary about Gemmel “Juelz” Moore and Timothy “Tim” Dean, two black men who died of methamphetamine overdoses, administered by political and LBGTQ activist Ed Buck in his West Hollywood apartment. The film is even more relevant today because of Buck’s conviction for his crimes this past July. Directed and produced by Michael Thomas, this is a meticulously researched and often moving film.

Gemmel’s homicide was in 2017 was quickly ruled an accident, and it can be argued that Tim’s 2019 death could have been avoided had Buck been stopped. But law enforcement stayed its hand while the media circus rolled on and on, focusing on their “sordid” lives.

Even after Gemmel’s death, Buck was allowed to continue his habit of inviting young men of color to his apartment unabated until his September 2019 arrest. In addition to being a cautionary tale about drug abuse, this is also a story of white privilege, racism and homophobia.

Photo courtesy Outfest.

Interviews with friends and family members seek to give real personalities to these men, and it succeeds admirably. Journal entries are read, and friends choke up at the memories of these men and what they went through. They were more than troubled drug addicts. They were men who were cared for by people who fought tirelessly to bring Buck to justice.

This was an important story for Thomas, who also served as the film’s cinematographer and co-editor, to tell.”Being part of the LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles, this is a story I’m extremely passionate about for many reasons,” he said in a director’s statement. “According to the DCD, from 2008 to 2017, the number of fatalities from meth in LA county rose by 707%; approximately one death per day. An alarming trend that I witness with my own eyes — in 2020 I myself lost a friend due to the meth epidemic.”

Gemmel & Tim will be available for streaming on the Outfest site until August 18. It plays together with Crystal Diaries, another documentary that tells Gemmel’s story through the eyes of L.A.’s Ballroom community.

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