The resulting documentary film, Dear Jesse, has now been released on DVD by Sovereign Distributors and goes on sale this October. Tim criss-crosses North Carolina speaking to people from as many walks of life as possible, both supporters of Jesse and those who oppose him, creating a picture of the man who represents them in the eyes of the world that's not very flattering.
I don't know if it was his intention when he started out on this journey, but along the way it also becomes an examination of his own life and his relationship with his family and friends who still live in North Carolina. Through interviews, news clips, and voice-overs, Tim tells the story of two of the state's native sons. He does his best to be an objective observer, and let other people and the historical record paint the picture of Jesse Helms, and to a large degree, he is successful. The majority of the analysis he indulges in centers around his own life, and the choices he's made along the way.
It's there where we can make our own suppositions of course. How much were those choices a product of the environment he grew up in; the environment fostered and created by Jesse Helms? Would he have been more open about his relationship with another man to his parents if Helms hadn't so poisoned the atmosphere of North Carolina with his riling against same sex relationships?
Even during the filming of the movie, he is still too unsure of how his parents would be able to cope with him talking about how upset he was because a man he had loved had just committed suicide. Can you imagine not being able to turn to your parents for comfort when someone you love dies? Can you imagine how lonely and isolated that would make you feel?
What makes Dear Jesse such a powerful movie is the fact that it's able to show the subtle and insidious ways that prejudice can affect the lives of people. It's not just the overt hate-mongering that causes so much damage, it's the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that it generates that can cause as much grief. Is it any wonder that a disproportionate numbers of teenage suicides are gay?