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Gemmel & Tim: A Frustratingly True Queer Crime Story

Gemmel & Tim, a 2021 documentary that won rave reviews at film festivals around the world is finally getting a wider release next week. The film highlights the lives and deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean, two Black gay men who died at the hands of West Hollywood politico Ed Buck….

By Matthew Creith

“We can’t file a criminal case based on who has the loudest voice.” This is a direct quote from former Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey as several activists asked her to arrest a man named Ed Buck. Buck, a well-known political donor to high-profile Democratic candidates in the Los Angeles area at the time, was under investigation for what was deemed to be accidental deaths of two Black gay men in his West Hollywood apartment. It was clear that police didn’t question Buck about the untimely deaths, nor was he facing criminal charges for what many believed were obvious crimes aimed at the community he lived in despite mounting evidence against him.

That didn’t stop the friends and family of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean from getting justice.

Gemmel & Tim is the 2021 documentary that highlights the victims who were tragically murdered at the hands of Ed Buck, a West Hollywood political fixture sentenced to 30 years in prison earlier this year for the deaths of both men. Releasing in Canada and the United States on iTunes, AppleTV, and Google Play on October 18, 2022, the film expertly chronicles the pain and anger of a community and government officials who refused to help. It explores the lives of the two male victims trashed by the media and vilified for their place in the LGBTQ2+ community while also lifting their narratives up by the people who knew them best.

Ed Buck is currently serving time in federal prison for his crimes, but Gemmel & Tim is not just about the true-crime nature of an infamous story. It examines what made Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean such unique humans in the West Hollywood community. Their influence on those closest to them is the prime focus of a documentary that strives to paint the victims as real people who played basketball and loved their families rather than sex industry workers and supposed drug addicts. Their existence and the effect their lives had on others are delivered eloquently through interviews with friends and family, making “Gemmel & Tim” mainly about the victims rather than the perpetrator. Through intimate recollections of their lost friends, each interviewee exposes their own personal journey in dealing with grief. Powerful and galvanizing, Gemmel & Tim concurrently investigates Buck’s crimes and offers a cautionary tale to keep these events from repeating.

Director Michiel Thomas carefully treats this horrific story with gentle hands, splicing together animated shots and archival footage of the two men who lost their lives to a demented and powerful thug. Because when all of the facts are laid out on the table, Ed Buck was and still is a thug. A thug who chose to get these two men addicted to crystal meth and inject them with the drug enough to cause an overdose. A thug who targeted his vulnerable victims in a racially motivated way while simultaneously keeping a public persona in place that saw him dining with the elite and rubbing elbows with political figures that would one day run the city he lived in. A thug who lived by day out of the closet fighting for gay rights through the use of political donations and well-timed speeches, but by night, was slowly killing the gay community he claimed to support.

That same community was crying out for help, and no one was there to listen. 

Jackie Lacey took her sweet time in charging Ed Buck for his crimes. Gemmel Moore died of a drug overdose in Ed Buck’s apartment in 2017, officials carried his body out of the apartment, and Buck was never questioned. Timothy Dean lost his life in the same apartment while Ed Buck was present in 2019, and again, Buck was not initially questioned. It took gay rights activists, friends, 24-hour cable news, and the West Hollywood community posting videos and pictures of Ed Buck’s drug-filled apartment to social media for attention to be brought to these two cases. It wasn’t until the federal government stepped in and investigated the matter that Ed Buck finally saw the inside of a police station.

These two Black men should not have been targeted. These two Black men should not have died. These two Black men should be here now to tell their own stories and recount others with the pride they had in being gay in a town like West Hollywood, California. Ed Buck took that privilege away from them, but “Gemmel & Tim” helps to keep them alive.

Festivals and awards:

Gemmel & Tim world premiered at Outfest LA 2021. The film won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the Chicago Reeling LGBTQ+ Film Festival 2021, Black Alphabet 2021 and finished runner-up for the Filmfestival Oostende Audience Award 2022 in Belgium. It also received the honors of Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature at the Seattle Queer Film Festival 2021 and OUTSHINE Fort Lauderdale 2021. At the Ouray International Film Festival 2022, the doc won the Student Jury Award and Best Director. At Out Film Connecticut 2022 Gemmel & Tim received Documentary Jury Special Mention. PrideIndex.com’s Esteem Awards honoured the film with a National Special Recognition for the efforts in supporting the African-American and LGBT communities in the areas of entertainment, media, civil rights, business and art.

Gemmel & Tim will be available on Apple TV and iTunes on October 18, 2022.

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