We’re currently in a media spiral where murderers are romanticized and their victims are left to be exploited. But the documentary Gemmel & Tim shows us that these murderers are exactly what they are, evil, and that their victims were siblings, partners, family members, and friends. The documentary explores the lives of two Black queer men, Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean, who were killed at the hands of West Hollywood political force Ed Buck. Directed and written by award-winning documentarian Michiel Thomas, Gemmel & Tim places Black queer perspectives front and center, while telling a story of how someone with power, influence, and privilege was finally taken down.
Evil comes with a few different faces and one of them belonged to Buck. The one-time politician, political donor, and business owner played influential West Hollywood gay by day and racist manipulator by night. Buck was luring men into his home, placing them under the influence of crystal meth, and forcing them into heinous sexual acts. Unfortunately, Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean were two men who lost their lives due to Buck’s machinations.
The documentary leaves no stone unturned. While it explores the omnipresent force that was Buck in local and national politics, it doesn’t strive to humanize him or make it seem that he was a wayward soul in need of support. Instead it shows you how powerful people maintain their influence and cover up their misgivings. It also shows how race and sexual orientation play a role in the delayed actions and reactions of law enforcement.
But while the film is an exposé on Buck, it also serves as a biography to Moore and Dean. Told through the accounts of Moore and Dean’s chosen families, Thomas expertly captures not only their narratives, but how their stories impacted their loved ones and mobilized them to demand justice. Ultimately, their actions placed Buck behind bars.
Both Moore and Dean participated in acts that most people in society would frown upon. From drug use to sex work, these two utilized these methods to cope with life’s hardships and survive during dark times. The film acknowledges this and continues to humanize them, contrary to what the media did.
In a world where Blackness and queerness are continuously vilified, Thomas does the opposite, allowing the film to also be a celebration of who Moore and Dean were. That celebration is beautifully captured by Thomas through the testimonials of Moore and Dean’s chosen families and further embellished through home videos, photos, and illustrations of the two men.
This documentary takes you on multiple journeys: one through the pitfalls and biases of law enforcement, one through the ways in which powerful people hide their wrongdoings behind political power, and one through the lives of two Black queer men who simply needed help. Gemmel & Tim is a deeply must-see documentary.
Gemmel & Tim is now available for streaming on iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and YouTube.