Jim in Bold

Affecting docu "Jim in Bold" is a portrait of gay youth across America while commemorating one whose sense of being too "different" ended in suicide. Road-trip aspects seem frivolous at times, reminiscent of certain MTV shows (pic's co-producer). But for the most part, this is a lively and heartfelt effort that merits widespread broadcast/classroom usage as a sensitizing and affirming educational tool.

Affecting docu “Jim in Bold” is a portrait of gay youth across America while commemorating one whose sense of being too “different” ended in suicide. Road-trip aspects seem frivolous at times, reminiscent of certain MTV shows (pic’s co-producer). But for the most part, this is a lively and heartfelt effort that merits widespread broadcast/classroom usage as a sensitizing and affirming educational tool.

Jim Wheeler was a teen in Lebanon, Pennsylvania whose poems (powerfully recited here) and paintings showed remarkable talent for his age — and also expressed the feelings of social isolation and despair that led to his death at age 19. By contrast, the young men who founded a gay youth Web site forum and log 8,000 miles in an RV — here visiting some of their farther-flung correspondents — are wholly comfortable in their gay identity. In fact, they come off a bit too glib and telegenic in travelogue scenes that seem flyweight alongside inspiring visits with student groups, individual teens in remote one-horse towns, and parents of gay kids. (Wheeler’s mom Susan is now an activist and counselor.) Tech package is slick, if a bit too flash at times.

Jim in Bold

Production: An Equality Forum production in association with YoungGayAmerica, PBS and MTV. Produced by Malcolm Lazin. Directed by Glenn Holsten.

Crew: Camera (color, Digital Beta), Holsten; editor, Mark Wawrzenski; music, Michael Aharon. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Festival, June 19, 2004. Running time: 78 MIN.

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