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Epstein, Rob (b. 1955)  
 
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The Times of Harvey Milk won the 1985 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary, as well as the New York Film Critics Award for Best Non-Fiction Film, and was named one of the best documentaries of the 1980s by American Film magazine.

The UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Sundance Institute later selected the film as a preservation project and a 35-millimeter digitally re-mastered version of the film was released in June 2000.

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Epstein next produced and directed (with Peter Adair) the PBS documentary, The AIDS Show: Artists Involved with Death and Survival (1986). The film documents the making of "The AIDS Show," a collaboratively-written theater piece that examined the emotional impact of AIDS from multiple points of view, which was first produced in September 1984 by San Francisco's Theatre Rhinoceros.

In 1987, Epstein teamed up with filmmaker Jeffrey Friedman (who had served as a consultant on The Times of Harvey Milk) to form the production company Telling Pictures in a former convent and Catholic girls' school in San Francisco.

The first Telling Pictures project was the 1989 documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, which Epstein and Friedman together wrote, produced, directed, and edited.

Narrated by the actor Dustin Hoffman, the film was inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, a community artwork to commemorate the lives of those who have died of AIDS-related causes. Combining archival footage with personal reminiscences, the film recounts the first decade of AIDS in the United States, focusing on five people memorialized by panels in the AIDS Memorial Quilt, including three gay men, as well as a young hemophiliac and an intravenous drug user.

Epstein won his second Academy Award when Common Threads was named the best feature-length documentary in 1990; the film also won the Interfilm Award at the 1990 Berlin International Film Festival. The film made its television debut on Home Box Office (HBO), for which it won a 1989 George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Television and a 1990 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Documentary.

As a change of pace, in May 1991, Epstein and Friedman set out in a mini-van with a small camera crew and without any particular itinerary. They traveled for eighteen days through the southern United States, stopping in cities and small towns and interviewing people they met along the way, including a group of gay Marines.

Those interviews, along with footage of their journey, form the core of Where Are We? Our Trip Through America, a documentary that explores the aspirations and anxieties of a cross-section of everyday working-class Americans. The film premiered at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where it was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize, and was later broadcast on many local PBS television stations.

Epstein and Friedman next produced and directed the documentary The Celluloid Closet (1995), based on Vito Russo's pioneering 1981 book The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies. Russo had originally collaborated with the filmmakers on the project in the mid-1980s, but died in 1990, from AIDS-related complications, before financing could be secured to complete the project.

Incorporating a surprising collection of well-chosen clips from approximately 120 films across 100 years of cinema history, beginning with two men dancing in a Thomas Edison experimental short titled "The Gay Brothers" from 1895, The Celluloid Closet presents a comprehensive overview of how gay men and women have been portrayed--generally negatively--in American movies.

The actress Lily Tomlin provides a voiceover narration, written by the novelist Armistead Maupin, while a wide-range of Hollywood insiders, such as Tony Curtis, Gore Vidal, and Whoopi Goldberg, contribute behind-the-scenes commentary.

The documentary had its world premiere at the 1995 Venice Film Festival. It received a Freedom of Expression Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996 and was broadcast on HBO, for which it received a Peabody Award for Excellence in Television and an Emmy Award for Best Direction from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Tom Shales, writing in The Washington Post, called The Celluloid Closet a "film that presses more emotional buttons than many a manipulative melodrama and seems of equal interest to those of every conceivable sexual identity. It's not only about how people see each other and see themselves; it's also about being human and the joy and pain and confusion that strange condition entails."

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