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Before Stonewall: Restored Edition
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In 1969 the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's Greenwich Village, leading to three nights of rioting by the city's LGBT community. With this outpouring of courage and unity the gay liberation movement had begun.
Newly restored for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Before Stonewall pries open the closet door, setting free the dramatic story of survival, love, persecution and resistance experienced by LGBT Americans since the early 1900's. Revealing and often humorous, this widely acclaimed documentary 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.
Narrated by iconic author Rita Mae Brown, the film includes groundbreaking interviews with Ann Bannon, Martin Duberman, Allen Ginsberg, Barbara Gittings, Harry Hay, Mabel Hampton, Dr. Evelyn Hooker, Frank Kameny, Audre Lorde, Richard Bruce Nugent, Jose Sarria and many more. Executive Producer: John Scagliotti. Director: Greta Schiller. Co-Director: Robert Rosenberg.
Entertaining and enlightening! --Los Angeles Times
Funny, sad, courageous and touching! --Seattle Times
Shocking, revealing, humorous and thoroughly compassionate! --San Francisco Examiner
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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.
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.
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.
Top international reviews
"Before Stonewall" is hugely impressive in that the film clearly took an enormous amount of time to research, to source the literally hundreds of film clips used, and to cut them together into an informative, educational film. There are many poignant personal stories here, yet the film is also a celebration, and not without moments of joy and humour. A delightful clip features the entertainer Carroll Davis reciting a poem, and an early song called Lavender Cowboy, proves that Jake Gyllenhaal & Heath Ledger (as Jack Twist & Ennis Del Mar) were not the first two cowboys to fall in love. There are interviews with Allen Ginsberg, Martin Duberman, Dr Evelyn Hooker , author Anne Bannon, and many other people who were not famous, but lived through hardships and prejudice, to triumph, and to end up living happy and full lives. This documentary is an inspiration, and a tribute to the activists who risked so much to help bring freedoms that a lot of younger gay people take for granted now. Barbara Gittings & Craig Rodwell, both sadly no longer with us,are rightly considered to be icons of the gay liberation movement. Excitement and enthusiasm shine from Barbara Gittings's eyes as she talks of early meetings in the 50s. Those must have been thrilling times, to be at the front of the battle lines.
Extra features include a lengthy panel discussion held to mark the 25th anniversary of Before Stonewall, & a delightful half-hour documentary "Tiny & Ruby", about two lesbian musicians, and their interesting loves and lives. Wonderful.
Younger gay men should see the dvd and learn of the fight for their liberties! Older ones may like the pictorial record of earlier difficult times.
And the bar is still there. Visited in 2008. Now you should go, and think about what happened there!!
BEFORE STONEWALL only covers U.S. Gay and Lesbian history from about the 1920's to the Stonewall Inn riots of 1969. It is a well-presented archive that informs us of the "coming out" of the U.S. Gay and Lesbian identity and community.
A good buy
Its good viewing from start to finish and tells a good story, which means alot in today's world.