One of the ten best films of the year. Kirkman the onetime Southern Baptist employs the more useful tenants of that faith to contemplate the existence of a politician most liberals write off as a monster. The film is an attempt to appeal to the better angels of Helms’ nature—despite the fact that he would probably never deign to sit through it.
-Matt Zoller Seitz, NEW YORK PRESS
Inspired by the first-person documentaries of Ross McElwee, DEAR JESSE is gay filmmaker Tim Kirkman’s filmed “letter” to the notoriously anti-gay Senator Jesse Helms. Shot during the 1996 senatorial campaign, the film features interviews with opponents and supporters, as well as writers Allan Gurganus and Lee Smith. The film also features a brief interview with Matthew Shepard, the young man whose murder in Laramie, Wyoming, called attention to antigay violence. After DEAR JESSE premiered at The New Festival in 1997, it went on to screen at dozens of festivals worldwide and was distributed theatrically by Cowboy Pictures in 1998. After its television premiere on the HBO/Cinemax Reel Life series, DEAR JESSE was nominated for an Emmy Award for nonfiction writing. DEAR JESSE was produced by Mary Beth Grealey.
GOTHAM AWARD NOMINEE—Best Documentary