The world is a dangerous place. There are predators everywhere but for young, African American men those dangers are amplified and in the new documentary “Gemmel & Tim” the deaths of Gemmel “Juelz” Moore who died in 2017 and Timothy “Tim” Dean who died in 2019, are carefully explored. Gemmel and Tim were young, gay African American men who lived in the West Hollywood area of Los Angeles and whose paths, tragically, crossed when they connected with a much older white man named Ed Buck, a.k.a. “the devil.” What Buck did was grim and deadly. He would invite young, fit, dynamic, African American gay men to his West Hollywood apartment to give them drugs—crystal meth—that he would inject into their bodies getting them hooked with ease.

The doc makes the point that Tim’s death could have been avoided if the police and justice system had acted in time to put a stop to Ed Buck back in 2017: the police did not. It’s a known fact that police respond differently to white people and things would have been treated very differently if the body of a white young man had been found in the house of an African American man.

Here’s what you need to know: crystal meth is the common name for crystal methamphetamine, a strong and highly addictive drug that affects the central nervous system. There is no legal use for it. Methamphetamine is a man-made stimulant that was developed during World War II and given to soldiers to keep them awake. Believe it or not, this highly addictive and destructive drug has been used to assist in weight loss and ease depression.

Gemmel and Tim went to Buck’s apartment numerous times, where the evil, white man injected them with the drug which eventually led to their deaths. Some mainstream media outlets seem to imply that Gemmel and Tim dying of a meth overdose was deserved. Even Timothy’s past as a part-time adult film actor was used against him. A number of outlets even tried to brush away the story but the doc, “Gemmel & Tim” focuses the narrative firmly in the hands of people who love these men, to this day, and refuse to let them be forgotten. 

They humanize them correctly, showing the viewer the qualities that made them both special. Gemmel and Tim were basketball players, friends, and hikers, with momentum and dreams, not statistics. On a deeper level, this doc is an intersectional look at racism, drug use, drug abuse, and the queer community.

Naturally and sadly, society tends to look away in shame as marginalized communities fall victim to predators and that’s exactly what Ed Buck was—a protected predator because he was male, white and he was preying on African American men. 

“Gemmel & Tim” portrayed the interviewees in their raw state where some felt a strong sense of guilt for not helping enough but the fact of the matter is that there’s only so much a person can do when dealing with active drug addicts. 

Seeing what Gemmel and Timothy had in common as well as their differences deeply humanizes their struggle, not making them unique, of course, but helping the viewer understand that there by the grace of the God of your own understanding go…any one of us. 

Producer Michael Franklin is an American actor and film producer who got his start in Hollywood as a dancer, working for artists including Mariah Carey, Rihanna, and Beyonce. Franklin plays the recurring role of young Leander “Shreve” Scoville on the Apple TV+ drama series “Truth Be Told.” His most recent appearance is in the series “Atypical” on Netflix and “9- 1-1: Lone Star” on FOX.  Franklin is a producer on the documentary features “Gemmel & Tim” and “That’s Wild,” both directed by Thomas.

Producer, editor, and writer Niq Lewis is an award-winning editor and visual storyteller with over 10 years of experience editing narrative and commercial content for clients including Vice Media Group, TV ONE, BET, Food Network, Fox, Lifetime, Macy’s, Home Depot, and Booz Allen Hamilton. Most recently she edited the Netflix feature documentary “In Our Mothers’ Gardens.” A native New Yorker, her family moved from Brownsville, Brooklyn to Central Harlem in the early ’90s, and it was at the Schomburg library, reading poetry by Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, that she began to understand the power that came with telling our own stories, unapologetically, as Black people.

Here’s what producer Niq Lewis had to share about why getting “Gemmel & Tim” made was important. 

AmNews: Why did you feel the need to create this doc?

Niq Lewis: I’m born and raised in NYC and have been a spectator of the ballroom scene since coming out in my late teens. It was one of the first places I felt a sense of community in my queerness. So when Michael approached me to edit this story, I immediately gravitated toward Gemmel’s story. After further research, I was almost in disbelief when I realized how long the family and friends of both Gemmel and Tim had been fighting for justice, with no answers or action. As a Black, queer filmmaker, it’s been my goal and my responsibility to shed light on the stories within my community—the stories that don’t often get told. 

AmNews: How (or has it) helped bring awareness to issues surrounding the vulnerable community?

NL: Black gay and trans men and women are being preyed upon and murdered by numbers that are unfathomable; 2021 was the deadliest year on record for trans people and we aren’t talking about this enough. I think this film, along with films like “Crystal Diaries” directed by Enyce Smith, has helped to keep stories of the vulnerable in people’s minds. Plenty of folks knew of Ed Buck when these stories hit mainstream media and now a wider audience will get to know Gemmel and Tim.

AmNews: Do you think (or rather, do you feel) that the victims would have been supportive in this pursuit of justice?

NL: I can’t speak for the victims because I didn’t know them personally, but based on the testimonies from Gemmel’s friends, they believed that he was on a mission to expose Ed Buck.

So with that information in mind, I do believe they would have supported their friends’ and families’ fight for justice.

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