Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Reverend's Interview: San Diego Film Fest Exposes a Hidden Master

October brings not only Fall décor, cooler temperatures, and tricks (ahem) as well as treats to Southern California but also two major Southern California film festivals. Tales representing our international LGBTQ+ community will be spotlighted during both.

The 22nd annual San Diego International Film Festival (SDIFF) will run from October 18th-22nd. Produced by the San Diego Film Foundation, screenings of more than 100 feature and short films will take place in the Festival Village at AMC UTC 14 at Westfield Plaza. Other events include film panels, VIP lounges, receptions, and impromptu meet ups with filmmakers. Passes and tickets can be purchased at or by calling 619-818-2221.

Among the program’s LGBTQ+ offerings will be the San Diego premiere of Hidden Master: The Legacy of George Platt Lynes on Sunday, October 22nd. Lynes (1907-1955) began his career photographing celebrities, and it's those portraits along with his extravagant fashion work that he's best remembered for today. As this documentary reveals, however, Lynes' heart, passion and greatest talent lay elsewhere: his work with the male nude. This work, sensuous and radically explicit for its time, has only recently begun being fully discovered and appreciated for the revolution that it represents.

Directed by longtime art director turned filmmaker Sam Shahid, Hidden Master features a stunning collection of long-hidden photography from the 1930s-50s. Shahid literally exposes the life of Lynes less- known: his gifted eye for the male form, his long-term friendships with Gertrude Stein and Alfred Kinsey, and his lasting influence as one of the first openly-gay American artists.

According to the director, “George Platt Lynes was an artist endowed with an almost endless well of creative gifts. However, because of the restrictions – social, moral, artistic, legal – imposed upon him by the era in which he lived and created, he was unable to share his true talent with the public and, of equal import, future generations of artists who may have built upon and furthered his contributions to his genre. He was an artist who was never able to share what he considered to be his very best work, and more importantly what he considered his true craft.”

Sam Shahid has been leaving his mark on the world of fashion and advertising for four decades and counting. When he became the creative director for the in-house advertising agency for Calvin Klein in the early 1980s, he helped to turn the brand into the internationally recognized name it remains today with advertising campaigns that are remembered for their clean yet sensational visuals. In the early 1990s he did the same for Banana Republic before opening up his own creative design firm and advertising agency, Shahid & Company, in 1993.

Sam Shahid

In the years since, Shahid has created original and striking campaigns for brands as divergent as Versace, Perry Ellis, Gucci, Valentino, and Abercrombie & Fitch. He was also the Creative Director of Interview magazine, and he’s designed a library’s worth of fine art books for artists and photographers such as Bruce Weber, Kelly Klein, Herb Ritts, Joel Grey and Jessica Lange, amongst others. Hidden Master: The Legacy of George Platt Lynes marks Shahid’s feature directorial debut.

The energetic, affable director recently took time out of his busy schedule to speak with me:

CC: Congratulations on a great documentary and thank you for taking time to speak with me! How and/or when were you first introduced to Lynes’ work?
SS: I’d known his work for a while but I didn’t know about his life. All of us in the fashion world knew of his work, but I was asked to design a book about him in 2010 and thought “You know, there should be a film about this man! The world needs to know about him.”

CC: What made you decide to make him the subject of your first feature film?
SS: He was so brave. But it is so sad that he destroyed so much of his work. When I told people I was making a film about him, they said to me “Well, good luck.” We weren’t sure we would find enough info to make a feature film. He had so much courage to keep those male nudes because it was illegal at the time.

CC: How long did it take to develop or create?
SS: Since 2012. The project became like a client (laughs). It took 10 years to make it, mainly because it took so long to track down people who knew (Lynes) who were still alive. They’re all dead now except Don Bachardy. Then we lost two years due to COVID, of course, but I did read about 300 letters (that Lynes wrote) during that first summer of the shutdown.

CC: Someone in the film refers to Lynes as a “cross-pollinator,” which I like. Would you say this continues today?
SS: Oh yes, definitely. He was at the center of that art circle of the time which has continued to inspire artists. Robert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts were all influenced by George.

CC: You could say you’ve been pollinated by him yourself.
SS: (Laughs) Yes, you can.

CC: Has Lynes’ work directly inspired your career as an art director at Calvin Klein or Abercrombie & Fitch, or as a filmmaker?
SS: No, because I really didn’t know about his work beforehand. He did influence many artists I’ve work with though, including Bruce Weber and Don Bachardy.

CC: What do you hope viewers will take from Hidden Master?
SS: I hope the film will generate enough interest to mount a major exhibition of his work. That’s mentioned in the film by the Kinsey Institute representative as their hope as well. I didn’t want the film to come across as a competition between Robert Mapplethorpe and George Platt Lynes. The biggest surprise in the film is the final footage of George and writer Christopher Isherwood.

You know what’s exciting? The film has been selected to play the Lebanese Independent Film Festival (LIFF) in Beirut. George will soon be known in the Middle East! Isn’t that amazing?

The 24th annual Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF) will be held just prior to SDIFF, from October 12th-19th at various Orange County locations. Tickets are on sale now at A number of LGBTQ+ feature films as well as short films will be screened. Among these are:


Asog: A tragicomic road film that follows a non-binary Filipino comedian pursuing their dream of becoming a pageant Queen. By day, Rey teaches high school students and by night they perform at bars as a proudly gay comedian named Jaya. En route to a pageant on a neighboring island, Jaya encounters a series of people living on the frontlines of the climate crisis. 100% of the cast members are Filipinos who survived Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm every recorded at landfall.


Egghead & Twinkie: After coming out to her parents, 17-year-old Twinkie takes off on a road trip to meet her online crush with the help of her nerdy best friend, Egghead. As they make their way across the country, Egghead wrestles with his unrequited feelings for Twinkie, while Twinkie learns to embrace her identity as a gay mixed-Asian woman.



The Mattachine Family: Thomas and Oscar are a couple very much in love. But after their first foster child returns to his birth mother, they find they have different ideas about what it means to make a family. The movie is co-produced by actor-director Zach Braff.





  • (In)convenience
  • Alive & Well
  • Blue Square Heart
  • Boundaries
  • Friends/Aikane
  • Get Up the Nerve
  • I Thought the Earth Remembered Me
  • Lambing
  • Mud Queen
  • Face to Face/Tête à tête
  • The External-Internal Monologue of an Interdependent Insomniac
  • West of Frank
  • Zenaida

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.