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IN THE NEWS
FROM THE BALTIMORE SUN
'Scout's Honor' deserves its
very own merit badge Topnotch film plays it straight Preview:
Documentary shows how the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy adversely
affects men young and old.
SUN TELEVISION CRITIC David Zurawik
Published on June 19, 2001
© 2001 The Baltimore Sun
Earlier this year, after seeing
Ken Burns' "Jazz" and the lineup for HBO's "America
Undercover" series, I started wondering if we were living
in a golden age of non-fiction filmmaking on television.
After seeing several films that
will air this summer during the 14th season of public television's
Peabody-Award-winning "P.O.V." documentary series,
there's no longer any doubt in my mind. And "Scout's Honor,"
the film that launches the "P.O.V." (point of view)
series tonight on PBS, is a textbook example of the way in which
such documentaries have become the social conscience of American
television, replacing the downsized, tabloid-minded network news
divisions as moral authorities. The over-arching issue explored
in "Scout's Honor" is the Boy Scouts of America policy
of excluding openly gay members. For many filmmakers just telling
the history of that policy might be enough.
But director/producer Tom Shepard
wants to get viewers into the lives of some people affected by
the issue, to provide a sense of what's at stake for these individuals
and the larger culture. Shepard's focus is on Petaluma, Calif.,
and Boy Scout Troop 74, but he's talking about America and the
ways in which our fundamental societal values are passed from
one generation to the next.
As the opening credits play,
he manages through montage and brilliant editing choices to fill
in the audience about the background of the Boy Scouts and its
controversial anti-gay policy. Shepard opens his story on a hilltop
overlooking the prosperous, suburban, ranch-home landscape of
Petaluma. The first words we hear are those of David Rice, a
70-year-old Scoutmaster. Rice is awash in pleasant memories of
his boyhood in the Scouts, recounting the magic and majesty of
his troop's first hike to a mountaintop at dawn in northern California.
As Rice speaks, Shepard shows
us archival images - from promotional films and home movies -
of Boy Scouts at work and play. The home movies offer visual
ballast for Rice's memories, while the images from Boy Scout
promotional films raise it to a more universal level, of a nation's
young men in training. These shots are reminiscent of the images
of Boy Scouts that Norman Rockwell created for the Saturday Evening
Viewers soon find out that Rice
has been removed as a Scout leader for opposing the organization's
anti-gay policy. Rice is heterosexual. His opposition is based
on his conviction that banning Scouts for being truthful about
their sexual orientation goes against the core values of scouting.
From Rice and his memories, we
quickly cut to a boy frolicking in the back yard with his collie.
It could be Lassie and Tim - that's how iconic the scene appears
in Shepard's careful framing. But this 12-year-old boy is named
Steven Cozza, and he's one of the most remarkable kids you'll
ever meet. Cozza, a standout member of Petaluma's Troop 74, is
co-founder along with Rice of Scouting for All, an organization
dedicated to ending the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy. Cozza, who
also is identified as heterosexual, is at the center of "Scout's
Honor," as Shepard tells the story of the fight that Cozza
and Rice have entered - and the resulting ostracism and threats.
Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment
of "Scout's Honor" is the even-handedness with which
Shepard treats the Boy Scouts as an institution. Even as the
film exposes the contradiction and hypocrisy between the stated
values of the Scouts and its anti-gay policy, it still celebrates
the idea of scouting and the incredible role it plays in life
in the United States, where one out of every five boys nationwide
is a Boy Scout.
In the end, this is a film about
conscience - Cozza and Rice paying a price for trying to change
the Scouts because they love the Scouts. What makes this Sundance
Award-winning film rare is that the filmmaker seems as firmly
committed to a sense of fair play and good conscience as the
people whose stories he tells.
FROM THE BOSTON GLOBE
A BOY SCOUT LEARNS TO BE BRAVE
Author: By John Koch, Globe Staff
Page: C12 Section: Living
"Scout's Honor," as
troubling as it is moving, is about the worst and best of America.
It's about prejudice - namely, the expulsion of homosexuals from
the Boy Scouts of America - and about protest against the controversial
but, so far, legal policy.
At the center of the hourlong
documentary, broadcast as part of PBS's excellent "POV"
series, is a wonderful profile in courage. Steven Cozza was 12
when he sensed the contradiction between scouting ideals and
the discrimination against gays. Cozza, now 16, is straight.
"I just couldn't imagine being gay and being discriminated
against," he says in Tom Shepard's straightforwardly affecting
film. "I just had to stand up."
Young Cozza and 70-year-old David
Rice, also from Petaluma, Calif., teamed up to form "Scouting
for All" to oppose the Boy Scouts' antigay policies. Both
were connected to local Troop 74, Cozza as a model scout, Rice
as a longtime scoutmaster with fond memories of years of scouting
and teaching Boy Scout values.
Cozza is a latter-day Norman
Rockwell creation, endearing and wholesome. He skateboards and
plays soccer with his pals; he squinches up his tan, friendly
face when his mom pecks his cheek. He's perfect for his role
as uncompromising activist and heart-tugging centerpiece of "Scout's
Honor." Fueled by his earnestness and a kind of all-American
decency, he still reminds us that the good fight can have fallout
and that virtue doesn't guarantee victory.
Rice is expelled from the scouts
by the national organization for his involvement in Scouting
for All. The Cozza family receives threatening phone calls. Steven's
dad, Scott, is banished as Troop 74's assistant scoutmaster,
and the boy is often ostracized.
Woven into and around Steven's
struggle is the legal history of the BSA's antigay policy and
the growing campaign against it. We encounter Tim Curran, whose
1981 expulsion catalyzed Rice's fight against the national organization,
and follow his battles in the courts.
"Scout's Honor" is
a powerfully moving account of resistance that has the inspirational
feel of a Capra movie suddenly come to 21st-century life. Steven
Cozza, self-effacing and still gallantly fighting for justice,
is a young, genuine old-fashioned hero.
FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
'Scout's Honor' offers lessons
on standing up for personal beliefs Chicago Tribune;
Jun 17, 2001; Donald Liebenson
It's a shame that "Scout's
Honor," which will be broadcast Tuesday on WTTW-Ch. 11,
airs at 10 p.m. and not earlier in the evening. This documentary
offers families, particularly scouting families, much to discuss
about responsibility, activism and the role individuals can play
in standing up for what they believe.
Winner of the Audience Award
for Best Documentary at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, "Scout's
Honor" chronicles the controversy surrounding the Boy Scouts
of America's policy of excluding homosexual leaders, a right
upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. It also tells the remarkable
story of 12-year-old scout Steven Cozza, who with 70-year-old
Scoutmaster David Rice-neither of whom are gay- formed "Scouting
for All," an organization dedicated to overturning the BSA's
policy. "Sometimes you just gotta do something," Rice
states. "You're there, you know, you can, you must."
"Scout's Honor" is
not a diatribe against the Boy Scouts. Rather, it examines the
irony that the values Cozza took from scouting are what inspired
him to take his stand.
San Francisco Chronicle April 13, 2001
Merit Badge for Gay Rights 'Scout's
Honor' tells tale of Steve Cozza's struggle for inclusiveness
The Miami Herald April 27, 2001
'Scouts Honor' looks at 'no-gays'
Advocate May 22, 2001
'Scout's director' Tom Shepard, the gay filmmaker who documented
Steven Cozza's crusade in the PBS film Scout's Honor, says he
"had an inkling" the Boy Scout battle would be big
By Mike Goodridge