The Rejected is believed to be the first-ever made American TV documentary about homosexuality. It was released by PBS to little fanfare in 1961 then went missing for more than five decades. Now a team of determined archivists have unearthed the long-lost film and made it available for viewing online.
The footage was discovered by archivists Robert Chehoski and Alex Cherian after an exhaustive six year search.
“It just became that unicorn that I was looking for,” Chehoski tells KQED. “I get a little obsessive I guess.”
“There was no treasure map,” Cherian says. “All I knew was in 1961, KQED had made this film. Where the hell was it?”
First, they combed through KQED’s archives. When they couldn’t find anything, they tracked down the documentary’s original producer, Irving Saraf. He told them, “Oh yeah, I made that film in 1961 but I haven’t been able to find it. It’s probably lost.”
Determined to find it, the men did some more research. They learned that KQED didn’t actually own the documentary. It belonged to WNET, a TV station in New York that had provided the it’s original funding. From there, they were able to locate the one and only physical copy of The Rejected, hiding in the one place so obvious nobody thought to look: The Library of Congress.
“There’s that cliched phrase, did you look down the back of the sofa?” Cherian jokes.
After convincing the library and WNET to let them clean up, digitize and upload the one-hour film to the internet, The Rejected is now available to view online, via San Francisco State University’s DIVA Film Archive.
Cherian tells SFist that his next project is “working with the Library of Congress and the film’s copyright holder WNET to try and produce a better video copy.”