“I’ll keep hustling until I’m all hustled out.”
—David Secter, reflecting in the desert near Palm Springs
Apt words indeed from the Brandon native whose film career was and is as much narrative-driven as personal therapy. In this family-made documentary, Joel Sector (David’s nephew) has assuaged his angst (bailing as producer on the visionary dot.com reality flick, CyberDorm), promo’d his hedonistic relative’s, er, body of work, but—most importantly—shown his own talent for storytelling and team playing.
The film works on many levels. The archive footage of Winter Kept Us Warm, (dubbed “the first gay feature” shot in Canada) and Feelin’ Up (originally Getting Together, produced by the NYC movie studio in an apartment block, Total Impact) teases just enough to drive the curious to a, likewise, independent video store. The intercut interviews (notably David Cronenberg—“His movies came from somewhere else,” neighbour Philip Glass and former “employee,” Michael Ondaatje (production assistant for The Offering) add more colour than insight but effectively establish the filmmaker’s community. Aural variety is also achieved by Kaveh Nabatian’s tasty score—especially the prelude/postlude jazz interventions.
Nonetheless, the focus remains on David. In his quest to “find some alternative way to make movies … [and] living … with more than one intimate relationship [at a time],” Secter abandons Hollywood for the Big Apple and spurns the mores of society for copious helpings of sex, booze and drugs. Not just for himself mind you; the cast and crew that sleep together can’t help but bring something extra special to the set. And if it takes four years to shoot what corporate movie making does in three weeks, no worries—it’s the experience that matters.
Trying for balance we learn that Secter is a “control freak” and that some of his co-op colleagues see the extended family as more dysfunctional than utopian, but the courageous nephew quickly cuts to another scene as soon as anything negative flits across the screen.
Yet there is a price to pay for self-indulgence along the raucous road of rebellion. HIV positive, reduced to digital documentaries and still wondering “Why am I not where I’d like to be?”, the film candidly reveals all but still manages to end on a human high. Happily partnered then married to Patrick since 1980, and obviously enamoured with his nephew, David Secter has achieved many benchmarks of success that the Variety box office report could never capture.
More than an “asterisk” in the film historians’ guide to the exceptionally creative, Secter’s most tangible contribution may well be the degree to which his inspiration to Joel pans out in future productions.
Now that the albatross of family ties has been so successfully overcome (cross-reference below), it will be fascinating to see how the elder’s genes play out in the younger generation’s next production. JWR