Director C. Fitz profiles entrepreneur/activist Jewel Thais-Williams—who opened L.A.’s first black gay dance club, Jewel’s Catch One, in 1973—with a documentary that’s less a movie than it is one of those videos you put together for your grandparents on their 50th anniversary to tell them how much you love them. Thais-Williams is certainly a dynamic, praiseworthy individual, and Fitz explores the legacy both of the club as a community center for LGBT people of color, and its founder as a renaissance woman who also at various times established AIDS charities, went back to school to become a practitioner of acupuncture, opened a free clinic and ran a vegan restaurant. Her legacy warrants attention and admiration—here from friends, former employees, political figures like Congresswoman Maxine Waters and celebrity patrons like Sharon Stone and Sandra Bernhard—but there’s almost nothing in the way of a narrative here, despite the film leading up to Thais-Williams’ decision to sell the Catch One in summer 2015. Too little time is spent with the woman herself, resulting in a profile that’s celebratory but could have been just a bit more human.
Director: C. Fitz
Producer: C. Fitz and Jewel Thais-Williams
Cast: CCH Pounder