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A New Documentary Focuses On A Queer Rights Activist Who Aided In The Construction Of Microsoft
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A New Documentary Focuses On A Queer Rights Activist Who Aided In The Construction Of Microsoft


With a moving new documentary, filmmaker Aaron Bear hopes to pay tribute to an underappreciated LGBTQ rights activist.

“Yes I Am: The Ric Weiland Story,” which will virtually premiere Wednesday as part of the 2021 Provincetown Film Festival, examines the life of computer programmer Ric Weiland, who became a founding employee of Microsoft Corp. in the mid-1970s and eventually became the company’s lead programmer.

The trailer for "Yes I Am: The Ric Weiland Story" can be viewed above.

Weiland amassed a sizable fortune alongside Bill Gates and Paul Allen as Microsoft became a global brand, but “Yes I Am” focuses primarily on the techie’s passion for philanthropy. During his lifetime, Weiland, who was gay and HIV-positive, donated more than $20 million to 60 nonprofits, many of which were LGBTQ advocacy groups that drove efforts for marriage equality, AIDS research, and transgender rights.

Bear, who is based in Seattle, was approached to direct “Yes I Am: The Ric Weiland Story” in 2016. Though he wasn’t familiar with Weiland’s career at first, he soon became “so passionate about him, his legacy, and his accomplishments,” according to Stardia.

“There’s no denying Ric has had a direct impact on all of our lives, and yet nobody knows who he is,” said Bear, who interviewed Gates and Weiland’s partner, Mike Schaefer, for the film. “A story like Ric’s could be easy to exploit. That’s just not my jam. I really wanted to sing his praises and portray him as the hero he is.”

Bear had to grapple with the fact that Weiland was, by all accounts, a private person who never gave interviews as he began working on the film. During his research, Bear made a startling discovery at Stanford University: an archival box containing Weiland's personal diaries dating back to 1975, which were received as part of a donation to establish the university's Weiland Health Iniative.

Bear later cast Gil Bar-Sela and Zachary Quinto to play Weiland in re-enactments and character voice-overs, respectively, based on the diaries.

The scenes with the two actors are by far the most moving, revealing Weiland's true character while not shying away from the bouts of self-doubt and depression that led up to his death.

“I think Ric had a genius-level brain,” Bear said. “He talked so much about wanting to connect with other people on a deeper level, and I think that was his greatest struggle in life.”

Ultimately, Bear hopes that viewers will find hope in “Yes I Am: The Ric Weiland Story,” despite its subject’s well-documented personal struggles.

“The whole point of my film is that death is not the end,” he explained, adding that “our legacies can live on forever if we want them to, and Ric is a prime example of that.”

The Provincetown Film Festival will screen "Yes I Am: The Ric Weiland Story" on June 16.

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