Hugh Hefner’s After Dark: Speaking Out in America (Brigitte Berman, 2018), USA

Reviewed by Luis Oviedo, viewed at the 2019 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

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Berman’s film gives an unconventional look of Hugh Hefner’s legacy. While many remember him for impact that his magazine, it was refreshing and inspiring to see a rather political side of Mr. Hefner. Hefner was not just a socialite/casanova, he was man with a great view of the world and political insight. The documentary follows the runs of Hefner’s shows and their impact on late night entertainment, as well as the national political discussion.

This documentary is start studded, it almost seems as if Madame Tussauds had come to live. We get statements and appearances of stars like Whoopi Goldberg,┬áLinda Ronstadt, Smokey Robinson, Moms Mabley, Nina Simone, Taj Mahal among many others. This is not only entertaining to see, but these celebrities add ethos to Berman’s and specifically Hefner’s message. All these backing alludes to the communal thoughts of people from Hollywood.

The documentary touches on Hefner’s shows in the 50’s and 60’s (Playboy’s Penthouse, and Playboy’s After Dark) not only on their impact on late night entertainment, but also on the political statements and undertones of the show’s structures and the stars in it. The show was thought to be just socialites having fun, but they all discussed important issues of the time related to the civil right movements, environmental protections, and the effect of wars of the time. Berman through interviews and the the unfolding of the plot relates the topics of the shows to the issues of today.

Berman is hoping this documentary is seen by the newer gyrations with the hope that the statements and discussions of the show will encourage young people to take a stance on today’s issues. Hopefully by seeing that the problems of fifty years ago have not yet being solved, will ignite efforts to finally take the action that is desperately needed.

The world has a specific view of Hefner and his work, but thanks to Berman his political work has a voice that can transcend to audiences today. Berman gave another voice and light to Hefner that creates a call of action to issues we face today that have not been solved for decades now.


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