OUT at the Movies commemorates Stonewall
For the next installment in its ongoing series, Winston-Salem’s International LGBT Film Festival OUT at the Movies will present the acclaimed, award-winning 1984 documentary feature Before Stonewall, which will be screened Saturday, July 13 at the UNCSA ACE Theatre Complex, located on the main campus of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.
This marks the 35th anniversary of the film, which has been re-released to theaters throughout the nation to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, a landmark event in the gay rights movement.
“I think it is most appropriate that we are screening Before Stonewall so soon after the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall protests and riots,” said Rex Welton, the co-founder and director of the OUT at the Movies film festival. “It is the story of the birth of the gay rights movement and is a must-see for all.”
Before Stonewall is narrated by Rita Mae Brown, the renowned author whose works include her best-selling 1973 debut novel Rubyfruit Jungle, the popular “Mrs. Murphy’s Mysteries” and “Sister” series of mystery novels, the 1985 NBC-TV adaptation of William Faulkner’s The Long Hot Summer (starring Jason Robards, Ava Gardner, and Don Johnson), the 1986 ABC-TV movie My Two Loves (starring Lynn Redgrave, Mariette Hartley, and Barry Newman), and the 1993 ABC-TV comedy The Woman Who Loved Elvis (starring Roseanne Barr and then-husband Tom Arnold). She’s even got a cult classic to her credit, having penned the screenplay for the unforgettable Roger Corman slasher opus The Slumber Party Massacre (1982).
The late 1960s were, obviously, a time of considerable political and social turmoil, given the rise of the Civil Rights Movement (and the backlash against it) and the escalation of the Vietnam War (and, indeed, the backlash against that). It somehow seemed inevitable that the LGBT community, which for so long had been buffeted by oppression and persecution, would take a stand.
Shortly after midnight on June 28, 1969, members of the New York City Police Department conducted a raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, commonly known as a gathering place for the LGBT community. Raids were not uncommon, but more often the management was tipped off in advance.
This time, however, the customers resisted arrest, and crowds begin to gather outside, many voicing support for their gay neighbors. Events quickly escalated, with rioting breaking out shortly thereafter.
Yet despite the violence and looting, the majority of media coverage and public sentiment leaned more in favor of the gays than the police – and the Stonewall Riots brought an unprecedented amount of attention to the plight of the LGBT community, in New York City, throughout the nation, and around the world. Echoing Welton’s sentiments, it could legitimately be said that the modern gay rights movement was born that fateful night in June 1969.
Before Stonewall, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 1985 Sundance Film Festival, won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Informational Cultural or Historical Programming (Programs) and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Craft (Research), as well as Best Film honors at the Houston International Film Festival, Best Documentary Feature at Filmex, First Place at the National Educational Film Festival, and an honorable mention at the Global Village Documentary Film Festival, and in 1989 won the Festival’s Plate award at the Torino International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
The film marked the feature debut of producer/director Greta Schiller, who in collaboration with partner Andrea Weiss would create their production company Jezebel Productions in 1984, the same year that Before Stonewall was released. Their subsequent collaborations include such noteworthy documentaries as Paris Was a Woman (1996), The Man Who Drove with Mandela (1998) and Bones of Contention (2017).
The annual Winston-Salem OUT at the Movies LGBT Film Fest is scheduled for Oct. 3-6.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2019, Mark Burger.
The OUT at the Movies screening of Before Stonewall will take place 7 p.m. July 13 at the UNCSA School of Filmmaking ACE Theatre Complex, 1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem. Tickets are $9. For more information, call (336)918-0902 or visit the official OUT at the Movies website: outatthemovieswinston.org/.