Interview: Dustin Lance Black and Laurent Bouzereau on HBO’s ‘Mama’s Boy’

Dustin Lance Black is a rights activist, besides being an Academy Award winner for writing Milk. His life has been full of accomplishments, but he has also faced plenty of issues, such as growing up as a member of the LGBTQ+ Community while surrounded by religious culture and military bases. Through a documentary directed by Laurent Bouzereau titled Mama’s Boy, Lance has given himself the chance to tell his story on the small screen.

Based on his memoir with the same title, the documentary premiered on HBO on October 18th, giving fans the opportunity to explore the artist’s greatest moments seen from his own perspective. Awards Radar had the opportunity of speaking with Lance and Bouzereau, who discussed many topics, including Mama’s Boy and online activism.

Awards Radar: Dustin, what inspired you to write and publish this memoir?

Dustin Lance Black: It goes back to before I lost my mother. The conversations we were having were about her concerns with where the country was headed. It started as political conversations that got increasingly personal. She was worried with how politics were looking increasingly dividing. This was before the 2016 and she was having concerns about how these divisions were affecting our family. (…) I tried to write my mother’s story before I forgot it. Perhaps there were lessons that could address the issues of today.

AR: Laurent, how did you come on board to this documentary?

Laurent Bouzereau: I came on board by reading the book! I was working on a project in New York, and my husband and I had rented an apartment there. I saw the book and I read it very quickly. I immediately fell in love with the story. And curiously, on a very personal level, even though I grew up in a very different part of the world, I was moved and I reached out to Lance on social media and he generously responded.

That’s how we got on board to make this book a film. It happened very quickly, when it comes to Hollywood terms. We went on a journey and filmed it over fourteen days, after that we edited it and now HBO is releasing it. I am very proud of it, because it is very different from everything else I’ve done.

AR: What do you hope people take away from this documentary?

DLB: The goals that I had for the book are similar to the film. I think there’s even more urgency to those hopes. I hope people are moved and engaged. (…) I hope people find a little more of the courage to connect or reconnect with people who might think different than them.

LB: Absolutely. I agree. And I’ll add, I hope there is also a sense of discovery. I’ve had a few people watch the film and they had no idea (what to expect). There was this real sense of empowering and discovery and I think the story unfolds in a way that is unexpected.

AR: What were the challenges of taking the book to the screen?

DLB: I told Laurent from the beginning that this is his film, I didn’t want to put my finger in the scale as a producer or anything like that. And that is because I had so much faith in him and he would be more objective. That was a leap of faith that I didn’t have to do in the book, because there I got final cuts, so to speak. That was a challenge, but that faith ended up incredibly well placed.

LB: For me, it was finding the right way to tell this story in an hour and forty minutes. I worked really hard with Lance and with my editor, Jason Summers, who has worked with me for years. The idea of going to the places where the important moments of Lance’s life happened and finding a storyline to follow informed me as a storyteller.

AR: How do you think LGBTQ+ activism has changed with the rise of the internet and social media?

DLB: I believe it is a double-edged sword. With social media, there is the sense that you can find your own group, no matter where you are geographically. That’s been life saving. But then, some of the divisive powers have used social media to try and divide the L from the G, from B, from the T in particular, so that we are less powerful.

Early on, I feel a lot of queer people fell for it and failed to realize that many of these accounts were bots. People who were paid by religious-based institutions which were anti-gay or even the Russian bot, which is something that know we all know about, but we didn’t understand back then. The internet became a tool for authoritarianism to divide.

The white patriarchy is no longer the majority, so they have to resort to pluralism to divide. Social media can be both life saving and movement-crushing. I think we need to recognize that there are forces out there who want to divide our movement and stop falling for it.

(This interview was edited for length and clarity)

Mama’s Boy is now streaming on HBO through HBO Max.


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