A documentary on the life of gay rights activist Vito Russo debuts Monday on pay cabler HBO.

VITO had its world premiere at the 2011 New York Film Festival and opened the 2012 Oufest Film Festival in Los Angeles earlier this month.

The film from award-winning director Jeffrey Schwarz (Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon) uses period footage and interviews with Russo to paint a touching portrait of Russo, one of the nation's most outspoken and inspiring gay rights activists.

Appearing on MSNBC, Schwarz said he made VITO to “reinvigorate his memory and introduce him to the next generation of gay and lesbian kids who are just coming out now who might not have heard of him.”

“In telling Vito's story, it was also an opportunity to tell the story of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement from the dark days before Stonewall to all the way through the AIDS crisis,” he said.

Russo was an early member of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), a co-founder of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and a co-founder of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).

Featured in the film are gay rights activists Larry Kramer and Arthur Evans; film scholar Jon Gartenberg; and writers Michael Schiavi and Gabriel Rotello. VITO also offers personal accounts from friends Lily Tomlin and Bruce Vilanch. (A trailer for the film is embedded in the right panel of this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)