Over the course of four decades, filmmaker Paul Oremland (Like It Is, Frameline22) documented his romantic and sexual encounters with roughly 100 men. He was able to preserve nearly all of these detailed recollections and has now threaded them together in an epic portrait of a gay life, told with a candid mixture of pain, nostalgia and self-awareness. The finished product, 100 Men, will screen on June 21 as part of Frameline41, San Francisco’s international LGBTQ film festival.
In the film, Oremland counts down his stumbling initiation into gay life in New Zealand, as the closeted son of a sternly Christian family.
As each rendezvous clicks along, Oremland’s journey expands beyond his hometown — into the edgy gay London scene and then taking flight to other destinations throughout the world.
Each hookup, geographical setting and time period fits into a larger context that transcends the filmmaker’s own life experience, and the film becomes a definitive historical assessment of gay male culture — from the “gay-ghetto” cruising era to the queer punk movement to the AIDS epidemic, and to the technology-enhanced present-day.
The remarkable achievement of 100 Men isn’t just its thorough and energetic spin on the past — though gorgeously revealing archival footage certainly brings 20th century sex roaring into full view. It’s Oremland’s constant reminder that the trials and tribulations experienced by gay men before the dawn of the 21st century profoundly molded and shaped who we are today.
100 Men becomes much more than a personal documentary about sex; it’s a testament to the relevance of queer history and its ability to shine fresh light on the modern gay community’s challenges and successes.