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Documentary explores Hefner’s “serious” side

TORONTO from www.reuyters.com – – Hugh Hefner is bringing his Playboy party to the Toronto International Film Festival.

Hefner said he’ll be in Toronto with his “girlfriends” as part of the promotional push and party parade for the world premiere of “Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel,” by Oscar-winning documentary maker Brigitte Berman.

It turns out that Hefner broke more than sexual taboos after launching Playboy magazine in 1953. He also campaigned for civil rights and free speech and put blacklisted and black American performers on his “Playboy After Dark” and “Playboy’s Penthouse” TV shows when they couldn’t appear elsewhere on national television.

“Here’s an opportunity to have this other side of me, a more serious one, explored by someone as talented as Brigitte Berman, and having it done by a woman and a Canadian with the support of the Canadian government, it’s all very complementary,” Hefner said.

The Playboy founder said he met Berman after she won the best feature documentary award at the 1987 Academy Awards for “Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got,” a biopic of the jazz clarinetist and bandleader.

“I’m a big fan of jazz, and I was intrigued by that and discovered she had a second documentary that no one had seen on (1920s jazz musician) Bix Beiderbecke, one of my real iconic heroes when I was a kid,” he said.

Hefner paid for the music clearance fees on Berman’s 1981 film “Bix: Ain’t None of Them Play Like Him Yet,” and released it on his Jazz Video label.

Years later, when Berman attended Hefner’s 80th birthday celebration at the Playboy Mansion, she convinced him to allow her to recount his early battles with the U.S. government, the religious right and militant feminists — with full access to him and his video archives.

The film chronicles the ways Hefner broke the color line in his Playboy clubs and TV shows, funded legal teams to fight anti-abortion laws and campaigned against censorship and limits on sexual freedom.

“For me, this film has it all — sex, glamour, politics, romance, tragedy, and conflicts — and many great surprises about a man people think they know, but don’t really know,” Berman said.

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