Before Stonewall: The Making Of A Gay And Lesbian Community
Facts and Figures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Before Stonewall: The Making Of A Gay And Lesbian Community Movie Review
Most people believe that the gay movement began with the 1969 Stonewall riots, when New Yorkers finally fought back against the violence and discrimination of the local police. But this film goes much further back to document the changing attitudes toward homosexuality over the previous century, from the free acceptance of the 20s to the violent reactions of the 50s and 60s that sparked the Civil Rights movement and then the events at Stonewall.
Schiller and crew compile the film from a remarkable range of sources, including clips from silent movies, expert interviews, vox pops and personal memories from men and women of various racial backgrounds. The clips are lively and often very funny, especially a hilarious reunion of regulars from the legendary Black Cat club. As it progresses the film outlines some pretty jaw-dropping facts, most notably how World War II drastically altered American attitudes toward gender, as women found independence from the servitude that was born during the Industrial Revolution.
This led to a conservative reaction in the 1950s: McCarthyism was only one aspect of the purge of all people who were considered subversive. But even during this period, people stood up to the authorities. For example, the WAC Johnnie Phelps, who challenged President Eisenhower over his anti-lesbian policies. And it's not surprising that battles heated up at the same time over equality for women, ethnic minorities and homosexuals.
Schiller notes that while researching the film, she found material not filed under "homosexuality" but under "perversion". And it's fascinating to see how optimistic her film is. Stonewall is portrayed as the "we've had enough" moment when a whole community stood up and demanded fair treatment. And the film carries a definite sense that the struggle is already over. In 1984. Although we know 25 years later that real equality is still a dream.