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Before & After Stonewall: 25th Anniversary Edition
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Both movies "Before -" and "After Stonewall" were absolutely marvelous. I have never seen a documentary were I was moved to tears one moment and laughed hysterically the next. The information, historic background, political positions and sociological struggles are thoroughly portrayed in a collage of social events and true live stories told by the people who lived it! Both the narrators and interviewed celebrities reflect upon society in its modification and growth through resistance. I was so pleased with the movies that I could not wait but to add them to my own collection. The movies show a unique cross section of the music, the writing (!) and the people who changed our environment to the liberated society we live in today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
BEFORE STONEWALL and AFTER STONEWALL are two fantastic documentaries, each running a bit less than two hours, focused on the gay history of America (back to the 1920s anyway). AFTER STONEWALL picks up beginning in the 1970s--and sadly has to cover the whole AIDS crisis. Since I was there starting in the 1980s (I was a late bloomer), I had so many friends who fought in WWII and Korea. That generation happened to be covered in BEFORE STONEWALL.

So here is the set of both documentaries; honestly, I never thought the production groups would issue this set. It is a celebration indeed.

BEFORE STONEWALL, though as documentaries go is a bit heavy on personal memories and nostalgia, is otherwise perfect. It explains in ironically straightforward terms the gay history of America. In fact, on second thought it may be that the personal reminiscences add to the flavor of the film, because the interviewees are so colorful and memorable--and they are eloquent. I particularly love listening to Harry Hay, founder of the old Mattachine Society.

It is natural that this film can only probe as far back as the memories of the interviewees allow: lots of reminiscences of the "demimonde" or "twilight world" of the 1920s and 1930s. Mostly, BEFORE STONEWALL leans on WWII and the fact that any gay rights movement worthy of the name in America began in the military during the war. One very charming gentleman recalls attending a lecture by gay icon and scientist Magnus Hirschfeld, who was battling for gay rights since the end of the 19th century.

While the interviewees reminisce about World War II and then the McCarthy crap, they give powerful insights to the state of the gay community. This film shocked me when it divulged that the gay generation it covers was a generation of isolated, miserable people who had no idea there were others like them. At the same time, the film covers some of the silly media portrayal of "homosexual perversion".

There is nothing lacking in this documentary--but I am especially happy that it is very LOW on erotica. Too many gay-themed films are quite frankly so disgusting that I cannot bear to watch them (i.e., Stephen Fry in the title role in Wilde). This 1st documentary, narrated by Rita Mae Brown, is almost clean enough to show in schools. In fact I think high school level kids could handle it in their stride, and they'd learn all there is to learn about our sad, revolting gay history.

This does not shy away from the days when gay people were treated much worse than blacks, had no rights at all and could be jailed or institutionalized at the drop of a 6" stiletto-heel. It was riveting to hear the lesbian remember how she had been arrested for institutionalization--her own mother dropped the dime on her after learning she was a lesbian.

This film is THE object lesson, and all interested folk need this on their DVD shelves. Moving right along ...

... AFTER STONEWALL is as excellent as its predecessor. Narrated by Melissa Etheridge, it does indeed pick up where BEFORE STONEWALL left off ... though I am a bit disappointed that neither documentary addressed the event of the Stone Wall [original spelling] Bar, and how it changed American history.

AFTER STONEWALL leaps away from the WWII generation of gays and lesbians who were covered in BEFORE STONEWALL. This documentary charges onward with gay American history beginning in the 1970s. While not as intimately quirky as BEFORE STONEWALL, it addresses its target crowd: twenty-something gay people with political axes to grind.

As to that, I'd like to add that this documentary is really missing solid political input. Its preceding documentary counterpart at least had some government officials talking about their anti-gay policies. This film, however, seems to avoid the subject altogether. We have to realize that today, with Don't Ask Don't Tell being held to the fire, we still have political axes to grind.

This is an excellent overall documentary, though a bit of a limp shadow of its predecessor. And I cannot think of a worse narrator than Melissa Etheridge! But it gives me hope: the hope that I might live to see the next generation's gay documentary, made in a time when few people will be able to believe we ever treated the gay community the way we do.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
In 1969 it was illegal to be gay in New York City. Gay bars were usually mafia owned and survived by making pay offs to the police, but now and then officers were instructed to crack down and make arrests. This was exactly the situation at The Stonewall, a dive bar in New York's Greenwich Village, on 27 June--but on this occasion the handful of patrons didn't go quietly into the paddy wagon. The attacked the police, and when the police took cover inside the bar itself, the patrons tried to set fire to it. The incident resulted in a full-fledged riot that ran off and on for several days, shutting down a large chunk of New York City and causing horrible traffic snarls as drivers tried to circumvent the riot zones.

Gays and lesbians will tell you that it was the turning point in the struggle for equal rights. I myself am not so sure. For one thing, there had been arrests and riots before; there had been protests before; and in actual fact the Stonewall Riots didn't actually receive much news coverage--newspapers and televisions of the time didn't want to carry stories about "perverts" and not many people outside New York City knew anything about the riots at all. In my opinion, the true turning point of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement came about a decade later, when Harvey Milk demonstrated that a gay man could be elected to office in a major city and when Anita Bryant made the discover that the gay and lesbian community had enough clout to get her fired as spokes woman for Florida orange juice.

That said, BEFORE STONEWALL was one of the first documentaries to cover the issue of gay and lesbian equality. It suffers from the usual notion that America consists of New York and California and there's nothing else in between, and it works hard to paint a rosy picture of a period during which gays and lesbians suffered tremendously, facing everything from arrest to institutionalization. The follow up AFTER STONEWALL is a bit more realistic in its depiction of the rights movement, but it tends to play fast and loose with time lines and occasionally mis-links events. The over all effect is a bit odd: sometimes up, sometimes down, and usually one when the other would be more appropriate.

The documentaries include a host of famous faces ranging from Larry Kramer to Rita Mae Brown to Martin Duberman to the much loved and widely hated Harry Hay, although you won't hear anything about why he is as disliked as he is admired. The sound bites are just that, sound bites, and while the documentaries are interesting, they're really more entertaining than they are actually informative. We get to see Anita Bryant get a pie in the face, but not a word is said about the San Francisco riots following Harvey Milk's assassination. Recommended, but be aware that this is far, far, far from the full story.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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on March 10, 2014
Although not the newest "LGBTQ history"-themed documentaries these provide an important perspective from the point of view of presenting archival footage and interviews with individuals that were part of the eras discussed (this is particularly important for the _Before Stonewall_ documentary since we have reached a time when many of these people have passed on).
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on May 20, 2015
Pretty good. Could use an update with everything that's happened in the last 10-15 years.
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on March 31, 2015
very good movie
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