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Category:    Home > Reviews > Before Stonewall (Documentary)

Before Stonewall (Documentary)


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: C     Film: B



Andrea 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.


In some 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 into.


The full 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.


There is 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


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