Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Spencer Blohm did a write up for us on George Takei and his new documentary coming to our Screening Room on August 22nd!

It’s More Than Ok To Be Takei

George Takei’s journey to becoming the pop culture icon he is today has been a long, and sometimes rocky, one. His incredible story of perseverance, hard work, determination, and success is the subject of the new documentary: To Be Takei. The documentary will hit theaters, including Cinema Salem, on August 22nd, after its exclusive run on-demand as part of DirecTV Specials from July 3rd through August 5th.

For those unfamiliar with Takei, his story starts off in Los Angeles in 1937, where he was born to Japanese-American parents. Unfortunately for the Takei family, WWII was right around the corner, and following the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, thousands of Japanese-Americans were taken into custody and put into internment camps, the Takei’s included. From the age of 5 until he was 8, George Takei spent life in custody of the U.S. Government, an injustice he has never forgotten and one he discusses at length within the documentary.

In the years following WWII, Takei found academic success at UCLA where he earned his Bachelors and Masters, then later studied at the Shakespeare Institute in England and Sophia University in Tokyo. His life after school didn’t go so smoothly though since, as an Asian-American, acting parts for him were few and far between, and often limited to insulting stereotypes. Granted, he had parts in films like Green Berets with John Wayne and Mission: Impossible, but they lacked in both weight and screen time. His big break finally came in 1965, when producer Gene Roddenberry decided to cast him in a pilot he was working on, for a little show called Star Trek. The role of Sulu in the series skyrocketed George into fame, and it was a role he reprised a number of times in the various Star Trek films and television series that followed the original.

Takei’s years on Star Trek are covered in depth in the documentary, including interviews with former co-stars Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, and Takei’s long time frenemy William Shatner. The fact that director Jennifer Kroot was even able to get Shatner to sit down for an interview for a film about Takei is astonishing. Granted, Shatner doesn’t exactly sing the praises of his former costar, but it’s entertaining to see the numerous digs the two make at each other.

Of course, the film wouldn’t be complete without touching on Takei’s activism in recent years. Following his public announcement in 2005 that he was gay, Takei has made it his mission to fight injustice and intolerance with both passion and his trademark cheeky humor. Thanks to his social media savvy, Takei has had quite a bit of a resurgence into the spotlight. He uses his online platforms to rally support for LGBT rights and, if needed, to call out the less than tolerant. In fact, the name of the documentary is a spin off a YouTube video Takei made in response to Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, where he encouraged the use of his last name as a replacement for the word “gay” and encouraged his fans that “it’s ok to be Takei.”

We also get an intimate look at his relationship of 25 years with his husband Brad Altman. It’s interesting to see such a personal side of a man we most often associate with spaceships or tongue in cheek humor. Overall, the film captures both the humorous and deeply sensitive sides of Takei, whom we discover is a very multifaceted person. For Takei fans, it’s a must-see.