about the film

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel takes an intimate look at the outspoken, flamboyant founder of the Playboy empire.

Oscar-winning™ producer/director Brigitte Berman has just completed the theatrical version of her feature documentary, titled “HUGH HEFNER: PLAYBOY, ACTIVIST AND REBEL” (124 minutes). The film portrays the flamboyant, outspoken founder of the Playboy empire and his many fierce battles with nearly all levels of the U.S. government, the religious right, and militant feminists.

When Hefner launched Playboy in December 1953, the magazine achieved instant notoriety and astounding success. Its magnet was a nude centerfold of Marilyn Monroe. Hefner became an outspoken champion of the sexual revolution and immediately, the outraged forces of Church and State, initiated a war against Hefner and Playboy that raged over the decades.

Berman explores the paradox of the man – on the one hand, the hedonistic Playboy, pursuing his own sexual odyssey and living a highly controversial lifestyle and on the other hand, the humanitarian who has been a catalyst for progressive change on a whole array of social and political issues: racial equality, First Amendment rights, abortion rights, sexual freedom, censorship and social justice.

Berman won an Academy Award for her feature documentary “Artie Shaw: Time is all you’ve got”. Her friendship with Hugh Hefner began when Hef contacted her after discovering that she had made a feature documentary about one of his favorite musicians – Bix Beiderbecke. Hef, being an avid film collector, wanted to add her documentary about Bix to his collection. He also released Berman’s “Bix” film on his Jazz Video label.

Several years later, after Berman attended Hefner’s momentous 80th birthday party at the Playboy Mansion in April 2006, she decided that she wanted to make a feature documentary that would reveal another side of Hugh Hefner that had not yet been portrayed in any of the documentaries made about him.

“What fascinates me about Hef is that while many know him only as a hedonistic, sensual Playboy, a legendary lover of countless beautiful women – there is a whole other and far more interesting, far sexier side to him as well – a driven, talented publisher of a groundbreaking magazine, who is also a social activist at the forefront of countless progressive causes – a man who took great risks in breaking the colour line in his Playboy clubs and TV shows, who defied the blacklist in the McCarthy Fifties decade, fought antiquated and absurd sex laws that regulated private conduct in the nation’s bedrooms, provided legal teams to fight anti-abortion laws that eventually led to Roe vs Wade, and campaigned against censorship and for the individual’s right to freedom of expression on all fronts. 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,” said Berman.

When Hefner agreed to participate in the film, he granted Berman unprecedented access to his vast, personal archives and agreed that she would maintain creative and editorial freedom – something he’d never done before.

Hefner has often stated that he is extremely proud of his enemies - and they certainly have been formidable. For years he was on the enemies’ lists of Presidents Nixon and Reagan, as well as the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover.

His enemies on the religious right have included American televangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell, Don Wildmon with the American Family Association, and Charles Keating, founder of Citizens for Decent Literature, all of whom have exerted tremendous influence in Washington. Outspoken feminist opponents include Gloria Steinem and Susan Brownmiller.

The film highlights how in fighting his battles, Hefner was arrested for obscenity, branded a pornographer by Reagan’s Meese Commission, endured a boycott of his magazine, was under FBI surveillance and was set up on a fabricated drug charge. He has won every legal battle he has ever fought. And of course his legendary lifestyle has continued unabated throughout.

The list of participants in the film is extraordinary. Those featured by Berman are essentially a “Who’s Who” of the decades and controversies surrounding Hefner and Playboy. “Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel”, is a documentary produced by Metaphor Films and its award-winning producers are Victor Solnicki, Brigitte Berman, Peter Raymont.

The film is produced in association with Telefilm Canada and The Rogers Group of Funds through the Theatrical Documentary Program; produced in association with The Movie Network (executive in charge of production Michelle Marion) and produced in association with Movie Central (executive in charge of production Erica Benson); produced with the participation of the Ontario Media Development Corporation and with the assistance of the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credits, produced with the participation of The Canadian Television Fund, produced in association with Rogers Broadcasting Limited, and developed with the assistance of Super Channel.


… a lot of women don't understand that in most states contraceptives were illegal. And he was one of the first people out there putting cases before the court to change that …

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