March 10th, 2010
02:14 PM ET
I'm going to ask you to do something for me. I need you to put your preconceived notions aside for a moment with regards to octogenarian über playboy Hugh Hefner because that's what I did last night.
I'm attending the Miami International Film Festival and one of many documentaries shown in South Beach was "Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel."
The film had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but few North American audiences have yet to see it before it releases theatrically in June.
As the lights went down and the documentary came on the first face I saw was KIIS frontman Gene Simmons who opens the film by saying that every man would love to be Hugh Hefner. Naturally I rolled my eyes thinking "Uh Oh here we go again an old man praising another old man for sexually conquering and objectifying tons of women..where have I seen that before?"
But after the 2 hour documentary I changed my position. That's because I got to see a side of Hefner I've never seen before. The documentary takes a look at how Hefner challenged so many stereotypes in the 1950s and 1960s in the midst of a very racially charged and socially conservative environment.
Hef was one of the few rich and famous people who openly challenged segregation and obscenity laws. And although most of his life has been about him being surrounded by scantily clad women, the documentary hints that he was often lonely and longed for the real love he found at times.
The film humanizes Hefner in a way no one has attempted to do before on the big screen. His recent dalliances with his overexposed ex-girlfriends from the reality show "The Girls Next Door" become unimportant once the documentary shows video of him being arrested for standing up to ridiculous obscenity laws, or challenging religious intolerance followed by pictures of him receiving a NAACP Image Award from Jim Brown for Hefner's tireless work to eradicate racist segregation laws.
Oscar-winning producer Brigette Berman made the flick and was granted unprecedented access to the mansion and Hefner as well as permission to use tons of pictures and archival video. She said the reason why she decided to make this documentary was because she always felt there was more to Hefner and no one was paying tribute to him.
Berman said she sent Hefner a treatment for her idea to document his life and one day later received word that he wanted to do it. So off she flew from Toronto, where she is based, and in she moved to the Playboy Mansion to do extensive interviews with the man himself.
When asked what was the one thing that surprised Berman the most about Hefner she quickly replied "His integrity! He is also so generous and really does everything to help those in need, that includes animals as well. He's helped out friends and ex-wives and ex-girlfriends financially many times."
Hmmmm....perhaps Hugh Hefner's best creation is reinventing himself!
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