"If you're known as who you are, there are consequences."
-- George Takei
Jennifer M. Kroot's To Be Takei, is a lovely documentary tribute to openly gay Star Trek icon George Takei, can currently be seen exclusively at DirecTV Cinema. The satellite provider will carry the film via its OnDemand service until August 6. A theatrical release will follow.
The feature length film follows the actor from his childhood, part of which was spent in a WWII Japanese internment camp, through his seven decade journey as a science fiction icon, a human rights activist, and as a goodwill ambassador the LGBT community.
Though his sexual identity was one of Hollywood's worst kept secrets for decades, the actor finally came out publicly when then California Governor Arnold Swarchzenegger vetoed a bill that was meant to legalize gay marriage in the state. The now 77-year-old actor speaks eloquently of having no choice but to remain closeted over the course of his distinguished career. Best known for his portrayal of Mr. Sulu on Star Trek: The Original Series and six Trek movies, Takei has in fact played dozens of other roles on television, stage, and in film.
Kroot's documentary goes back to Takei's beginnings: He was barely five years old when he and his family, along with hundreds of thousands of other Japanese Americans, were imprisoned in interment camps without being charged of crimes after the Japanese government bombed Hawaii's Pearl Harbor in 1941. The experience haunts him to this very day. He has worked tirelessly across the decades to achieve racial equality and justice for all peoples.
And the documentary explores the moments Takei steps up to the plate -- time and time again -- to fight for justice. In one such time, the State of Tennessee tried to ban use of the word "gay" in public schools, the star suggested that people substitute gay with Takei. "It's OK to be Takei," he says with a smile.
Takei's activism can, at times, be quite humorous. When basketball player Tim Hardaway expressed his disdain for the gay community, Takei was quick to respond. "In spite of your ugly words, don't hate we like you," he said in an hilarious YouTube video (which we've posted below): "We like you very much. We particularly like your large, powerful calves..."
But there are still moments that sting. When Takei and his partner, Brad Altman, traveled to Japan so that George could receive an award from the Emperor, Altman was denied entry to the Royal Palace. They were told that they were not considered a married couple. Both men speak eloquently on camera of how painful an experience this was.
One of the film's most emotional moments is the heartfelt wedding between Takei and Altman, who appears extensively throughout the film. Star Trek co-stars Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) and Walter Koenig (Checkov) served as ring bearers, while Altman's lesbian mom and her partner smiled proudly as they sat nearby.
To Be Takei is a lovely tribute to an important gay icon, and To Be Takei is on DirecTV cinema through August 6.