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Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community (1985)

Rita Mae Brown , Evelyn Hooker , Greta Schiller , Robert Rosenberg  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community + American Experience: Stonewall Uprising + We Were Here
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Product Details

  • Actors: Rita Mae Brown, Evelyn Hooker, Ricky Streiker, Henry Otis, Jim Kepner
  • Directors: Greta Schiller, Robert Rosenberg
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: First Run Features
  • DVD Release Date: May 18, 2004
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001US7TU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,209 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews


Entertaining and enlightening! --Los Angeles Times

Funny, sad, courageous and touching! --Seattle Times

Shocking, revealing, humorous and thoroughly compassionate! --San Francisco Examiner

Product Description

On June 27, 1969, police raided The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's Greenwich Village. In a spontaneous show of support and frustration, the city's gay community rioted for three nights in the streets, an event that is considered the birth of the modern Gay Rights Movement.
The award winning film Before Stonewall pries open the closet door, setting free the dramatic story of the sometimes horrifying public and private existences experienced by gay and lesbian Americans since the 1920s. Revealing and often humorous, this widely acclaimed film relives the emotionally-charged sparking of today's gay rights movement, from the events that led to the fevered 1969 riots to many other milestones in the brave fight for acceptance.
Experience the fascinating and unforgettable, decade-by-decade history of homosexuality in America through eye-opening historical footage and amazing interviews with those who lived through an often brutal closeted history.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside History's Closet July 5, 2004
Originally produced for PBS television, the Emmy-winning "Before Stonewall" is a must-see documentary for anyone researching Gay American history. What makes this film so invaluable is its success in recreating - through photographs, film clips, and later-day interviews - a period in time that was carefully and deliberately NOT recorded as it was happening due to the pervasive institution of "the closet", and the very real dangers that faced those brave enough to crack open the door and step out into the light. As one courageous lesbian pioneer remembers, just being accused of being a gay woman was grounds for involuntary commitment to a mental institution during her youth. Small wonder, then, that there is such a paucity of material documenting the gay movement pre-Stonewall, especially during the years from 1900-1950, before the earliest Gay and Lesbian social and political institutions in the United States were founded.
The cornerstone of this remarkable film is the handful of interviews conducted with some elderly activists from the years before the Stonewall riots began on June 27, 1969. With humor, dignity, and matter-of-fact courage, these men and women tell personal stories about their experiences in the armed forces, in the halls of government, in society, and in their home lives during the years in which America at large experienced the roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War, the beginning of the Baby Boom era, and the radical Sixties. Their recollections are not only fascinating and brilliantly told; they are of critical importance in understanding the true heritage and history of today's American gay community. The DVD edition offers some fascinating extra material, including some expanded interviews, and footage of poet Allen Ginsberg reading two of his early compositions. Very highly recommended in terms of both quality and content.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Started in the Past... February 13, 2005
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
For many of us, the seeds of the gay liberation movement started on the nights of Stonewall, when a group of people just decided that they weren't going to take it anymore. However, there was gay life before Stonewall, which is documented in this fast paced documentary.

The movie attempts to collapse about forty years of gay history into a documentary of about ninety minutes. With a plethora of interviews, people telling their own stories, it's amazing what it does cover. While the depth of the history may be somewhat lacking, the real impact of the document is an understanding of the roots of where the gay movement came from.

It seems as we enter times of trial and tribulation, it's important to understand our roots. It's those roots, based in the stories that are in this movie, that ground us and help instill a sense a pride in where we've come from, and where we'll be going. With that pride comes strength, strength of will, strength of character. The people who so bravely walked before us, in the 1920's where wearing a red tie with matching hanky was the most obvious sign, to those impressive drag queens who finally decided that enough was enough, are our sources of self-empowerment.

Watch the documentary, buy it, and be ready.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Riveting Empowering Inspiring February 2, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The prior reviews on this movie hit most of the high points. The scene from Eisenhower's office during WWII is amazing - every time I see it I get goosebumps.

This movie does move quickly, but it really takes you from the days of hiding and shame to the revolution of Stonewall and beyond, to end on a note of triumph. It has been a while since I have been to a march, but every time I watch this movie, I am so moved, and proud of those who came before me. I am honored to be the recipient of the rewards of their struggle. I am inspired to live my best life as an openly gay man.

If you have ever felt second best, if you have ever ducked into the closet to make someone else more comfortable, if you have ever been ashamed of who you are as a gay person; this movie is for you.

I personally believe this movie should be required viewing for every gay person.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars M*U*S*T H*A*V*E! June 20, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The BEFORE STONEWALL dvd is one of three must have documentaries for all LGBT people (the others being After Stonewall and Paris Is Burning).

Chronicling the time from the roaring 20s to just before the Stonewall riots in 1969, BEFORE STONEWALL takes the viewer on a journey through the struggle that gay men and lesbians have faced as they go from isolation to finding others "like them." The story is told from the mouths of the people who lived through those times like Harry Hay, Barbara Gittings, Audre Lorde, Allen Ginsberg and others, and provides photos, news-clippings, and personal home movies and talks about the importance of underground 'zines that helped gay and lesbians connect with one another.

The doc also shows the beginnings of LGBT groups like "The Mattachine Society" and "Daughters of Billitis" during the late 50s, and features a reunion of workers and patrons of San Francisco gay bar from the 50s "The Black Cat."

BEFORE... came out on PBS in 1985 and "first-run-features" has done an excellent job cleaning up the footage. Of course it doesn't look as though it were done recently, but it's passable. The film runs at about 87-minutes and the special features include: blurry interview with Allen Ginsberg who reads two of his poems; additional interviews with Audre Lorde and Yvonne Flowers; additional footage of The Black Cat bar reunion and interview with Jose Sarria.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly steril
Lets white wash queer history. Dress it up in straight clothes and show that we queers are just like everyone else. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Cody Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars must see
A wonderfull done history of gay life before the rights of today. Also give to those who were the leaders who lead the way for todays rights
Published 1 month ago by john kohorst
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, touching, historical and informative look at gay and...
Someone was brilliant in choosing the right people to focus on and interview in this film. All of them are brave, interesting and have wonderful and sometimes very painful stories... Read more
Published 3 months ago by A. Brinskele
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Documentary
Watched for a class this Spring, very informative, recommend watching After Stonewall as well! Gives you a better insight on the struggle for LGBT equality in America.
Published 3 months ago by BPD
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST SEE DOCUMENTARY
This is an incredible documentary examining the event leading up to the Stonewall riots. Anyone studying historical events relating to LGBT issues, will benefit from watching this. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Barbara Ashland
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but Largely Irrelevant and Inaccurate Portrait of the...
It is sometimes necessary to explain what Stonewall was. In 1960s New York, it was illegal to be homosexual, and gays and lesbian bars were generally mob controlled venues that... Read more
Published on April 29, 2011 by Gary F. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Before Stonewall DVD--Excellent
I apologize---I actually thought I was reviewing "Before Stonewall" when I wrote review for After Stonewall. Read more
Published on March 26, 2010 by Mahlon P. Krautwurst
5.0 out of 5 stars Gay History Part I
BEFORE STONEWALL, though as documentaries go is a bit heavy on personal memories and nostalgia, is otherwise perfect. Read more
Published on February 20, 2010 by E. Hernandez
5.0 out of 5 stars political challenge
And the world turns and slowly gets fairer and just better. Great political story and why some of us are here and out and about!
Published on November 23, 2008 by jordyn skye
4.0 out of 5 stars GLBT life before Stonewall
This documentary includes interviews with members of the GLBT community and their personal recollections of life from the 1920's to Stonewall. Read more
Published on February 6, 2007 by Dayle Roberts
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