“Teach Your Children Well,” a documentary produced by two Long Beach residents, premieres Sunday at the Art Theatre with a special guest appearance by award-winning actress and comedian Lily Tomlin, who narrates the film.

    Director and co-producer Gary Takesian said he was inspired to make a film that would highlight homophobia and some of its harmful impacts, particularly bullying.

    Takesian, who owns Left Coast Flix video production company, said what really pushed him to create the documentary, which is about 40 minutes long and is designed to be shown to school audiences, was news media portrayals of gay teenagers committing suicide as well as the middle school shooting in 2008 of Lawrence King (King was shot by a 14-year-old boy at school in what prosecutors called a hate crime).

    “We didn’t want to retell the Lawrence King story, but we wanted to use it as a launching pad to get at this issue of homophobia and the violence that follows it,” he said. “Gays are laughed at and joked about and kids believe it is okay to tease and bully them. It is pervasive — kids often are encouraged by their parents to do this. This is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

    Although the film is not designed for a theatrical release, Takesian said the story it tells is valuable and emotional for any audience. He said he hopes people attend the premiere and show their support for ending they bullying of gay and lesbian children.

    “This film is a tool for transformation,” he said. “I hope it gets out to the schools and parent-teacher associations and social groups.”

    Co-producer and writer Steven Roche said he, too, had experienced bullying when he was a teenager and helped film the project to help end future cycles of homophobia.

    “Our primary goal was to make something that could be used for educational purposes in school and really effect change,” Roche said.

    The two producers finished the film in November 2010 and plan to screen the film at festivals and produce copies to distribute to schools and various community groups.

    Although the film was supported in part by the International Documentary Foundation  — and many people, including narrator Lily Tomlin, donated their time to “Teach Your Children Well” — the filmmakers said they are still trying to raise money to help pay for distribution.

    A benefit and VIP party for “Teach Your Children Well” is taking place at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, at Lola’s Mexican Cuisine at 2030 E. Fourth St. before the screening. Tickets are $100 ($75 of which is tax deductible). There will be food, drinks and a question and answer session with the producers and narrator Lily Tomlin. VIP party attendees also will have free admission and priority seating during the screening at the Art Theatre, which is located across the street from Lola’s.

    The screening of “Teach Your Children Well” is part of the monthly film series, Out at the Movies, which is presented by Artful Thinking Organization, a nonprofit that that raises money to fight breast cancer and HIV/AIDS. The show starts at 9 p.m. and ends with a guest appearance by Lily Tomlin. Tickets are $11 at the door or $10 in advance.

    Go to ArtfulThinking.org for more details.

  • Ashleigh is the editor and business beat writer for Gazette Newspapers, where she manages online and social media content.

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