Before Stonewall (Documentary)
C+ Sound: C Extras: C Film: B
Weiss’ Before Stonewall (1985) is a
documentary that paints life before the Gay Civil Rights Movement was set off
by a police raid in the title Greenwich Village bar in 1969 and it does this
through interviews and many film clips. The
roots of all this is traced back to the 1920s, then to Hollywood, The
Depression, World War II, The McCarthy witchhunts (getting particular
attention), the argument about whether being Gay was a mental illness or not,
the earlier waves of The Civil Rights movement including the Conservative side
of the U.S. Government trying to resist change and the state of things by the
release of this film.
ways, it seems a basic work, but it is really a key work and especially so
considering what year it was released.
It was produced in part with Public Television, at least this print
reveals it as having been shown on PBS stations, but they have so many
supporters. It is an informative work
that is scholarly and referential, countering the false sense of safeness the
latest “gay cycle” of TV shows and gay characters in film have misled many
frame image is a mix of color and monochrome footage from the past and of the
time of the production of the film. It
is a decent print, but this is from an older analog NTSC transfer of the
material. This is above average, but the
Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono offers the sound in a smaller-that-it-should-be form,
but it is about passable. Expect some
background hiss typical of documentary production of the time. Extras include three interviews with Allen
Ginsberg, Audre Lorde and “The Black Cat” Jose Sarria that did not make the
final cut of the film.
also another documentary called After
Stonewall that we may see on DVD yet.
That should make for an interesting comparison to this work. In the meantime, though it has aged a bit, Before Stonewall offers a key overview
for those with dangerously short memories.
- Nicholas Sheffo