Over the years there have been a number of movies with "Stonewall" in their titles. My first reaction in getting a 'review copy' was "Oh no, not another Stonewall movie..." Just didn't seem to me that there was enough new information to justify another movie. After watching this gem, I say there is nothing better for you to do this Gay Pride then to make sure you catch "Stonewall Uprising" this month. The documentary is outstanding. Like the movie "Milk," this film can have a major impact on the LGBT movement. We need to get people into the theaters and see this amazing historical document.
What makes this movie so powerful is that a good portion of it brilliantly captures the oppression of LGBT people in the 1950's and 1960's. The forced castrations, sterilizations, lobotomies and committing to mental institutions if you were discovered to be a homosexual. One mental facility in California was known as the 'Homosexual Dachau' because of horrific medical experiments conducted on homosexuals. Included was a type of water boarding by an injection. Homosexuals were tortured and often lost their mental facilities from the forced removal from society.
The talented directors, Kate Davis and David Heilbroner combine historical footage of endless police raids, beatings and harassment. Time and time again entrapment and bar raids destroyed thousands of lives. The documentary covers, in 1964, the sweep of the New York City to get rid of the undesirables before the World's Fair opening in that city. Over 5,000 people were arrested and placed in jail for being homosexual. Everywhere LGBT people turned to find each othe, they were rounded-up or targeted by bashers. One interview in the film talks about the 'hunts' where groups of 'straights' would go out on 'hunting trips' to beat up 'fags.'
This all leads up to the night of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. With much surprise, I learned so much new information from this film about the evening. Especially the scope of the riots, maps showing how we outflanked the police in the streets, the intensity of the violence and the fear of the police. In an powerful interview, the filmmakers wisely talked to a former New York City cop who gave the perspective of the police from that night. Another surprise to me was the broad spectrum of citizens who participated in the riots that extended far beyond the young and drag queens.
At one point, one of the participants in the uprising looks into the camera and says, "We had discovered a power we weren't even aware that we had."
As I watched the film, my stomach churned recalling my own experiences as a closeted gay man in the 1950's and 1960's. It is a testimony to the brilliance of the director, cast, and all involved in making an extraordinary film that should be seen by every American. Don't sit back and see if you have the time; you can not afford to miss "Stonewall Uprising." The movie left me in awe of the talented film makers, and most appreciative of those in our history who bravely went before us. As they say in the business, "Run don't walk" to see it.