The profound life story of the controversial human rights campaigner whose provocative acts of civil disobedience rocked the British establishment revolutionised attitudes to homosexuality and exposed tyrants in the fight for equality.
This is a true story of how one man’s protest helped change society. Born into a violent, poverty-stricken, God-fearing family in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, Peter Tatchell moved to London as a young man and channeled many of his adverse childhood experiences into a lifelong fight against tyranny, inequality, and injustice. Vilified by the British press and regularly bashed for his endeavors, Hating Peter Tatchell explores what has driven the controversial human rights campaigner to risk his life again and again by staging more than three thousand provocative acts of civil disobedience.
In an intimate interview with Peter, celebrated film actor and fellow gay rights activist, Ian McKellen, probes what has inspired, motivated, and fuelled Peter Tatchell’s six-decade assault on the prejudices of the British establishment and his long career fighting injustices across the globe.
Peter’s journey begins in the anti-Vietnam War movement when he is just a teenager. To avoid compulsory conscription in what he believes is an unjust war, he sails from Australia to London and falls in with the Gay Liberation Front, helping to organise the UK’s first gay pride parade.
Looking to shake up the establishment, in the early 1980s, Peter makes a move into the political mainstream by standing as a Labour candidate in the Bermondsey by-election. He finds himself embroiled in one of the most vicious and notoriously homophobic smear campaigns in British electoral history. When he loses the election, Peter vows to never play by the rules again. He’s tried playing by the rules. Now he’s going to break them.
Abandoning traditional politics, Peter diverts his energies into the radical non-violent gay rights direct action group OutRage! and takes the fight for equality to the very pillars of the British establishment. Using provocative stunts, wicked humour, and theatrical forms of protest, OutRage! lives up to its name by confronting everyone from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Experiencing the full wrath of the church, state, and media, Peter is dubbed ‘the most hated man in Britain’. Unbowed and defiant, he ups the ante by attempting a citizen’s arrest on Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe and by shirtfronting homophobic trash-talking heavyweight boxing champion of the world Mike Tyson.
As social attitudes change and history vindicates Peter’s stance on gay rights, his David versus Goliath battles gradually win him first grudging approval and then status as a national treasure. Now Peter is embarking on his riskiest crusade yet as he seeks to stage a protest at the FIFA World Cup in Moscow to draw attention to the persecution of LGBT+ people in Russia and Chechnya. All he has to do is not get killed, bashed, imprisoned, or ‘disappeared’ by Putin’s goons, the might of the Russian security state, and roving gangs of Neo-Nazis. What could possibly go wrong?
From Executive Producers Elton John and David Furnish, Hating Peter Tatchell is the profound true story of one of the world’s most influential human rights activists. This film explores the motivations and consequences of Peter's direct action campaigning and the personal sacrifice that comes with this line of work, including violent attacks and threats to kill him.
Told through previously unseen footage of Peter’s activism, intimate family moments, rare news headlines, and interviews with the likes of actor Stephen Fry, activist Angela Mason, and former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, this film gives a raw insight into Peter and his life’s work defending human rights.
In 1999, I first met activist Peter Tatchell soon after arriving in London from Australia. I was drawn to his dedication to campaigning for human rights over such a sustained period, thirty-plus years already at the time.
Yet, despite his considerable efforts fighting for equality, Peter was facing severe criticism, even from within the LGBT+ community. Shockingly this included hate mail and death threats. Throughout the time I have known Peter he went from being a public figure who the media and critics loved to hate, to a beloved national treasure - this fascinated me.
Over the past two decades, I have come to appreciate first-hand Peter’s eccentricities, his meticulous organisation, and witnessed his arsenal of direct action tactics defending human rights. I admire his dedication and bravery.
In 2016, I set about making my feature directorial debut to tell Peter’s incredible story. Following three years of research, development, and funding knockbacks in the UK, on the advice of a mentor, I moved back to Australia to seek finance. Soon after, Veronica Fury of WildBear Entertainment embraced my vision to document Peter’s life’s work and we were in production.
In February 2020, we were fortunate to travel to London to film our master interviews, including interviews with Stephen Fry, Ian McKellen, and Peter Tatchell. We returned to Australia to edit the film one month before the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions occurred.
Throughout this lockdown period, the entire post-production team, including a dozen musicians, worked remotely from their homes scattered across the UK and Australia. Coincidentally, the Black Lives Matter campaign reignited just as we finished our film about a direct action legend. Suddenly, there seemed a deep sense of urgency to tell Peter’s story now.
Society can be unkind to those who shake up the status quo. People are afraid of change. In Peter’s case, he forces people to take a stand on human rights issues, one way or another. Sometimes facing ugly truths is confronting, even shameful, and Peter’s direct action tactics are viewed by some as a step too far. However Peter is one of the most peaceful people I have met. He uses non-violent tactics; words, not weapons, to make his point.
Peter has spoken out against human rights abuses when others have stayed silent and he remains a shining example of how one person truly can make the world a better place. By following his story, this documentary ends up a ‘how-to’ guide for direct action. Hopefully able to inspire a new generation of activists to campaign for whatever they believe in. To fight injustice like Peter.
A lot of people say, “But what can I do?” Peter doesn’t question; he acts. It is these actions and this striking mindset that deserves recognition and to which this film is a testament. - Christopher Amos