In order to know where you’re going, you must know where you began. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the momentous event, the Stonewall Riots, many in the LGBTQ community are taking this as a time of reflection to teach our younger generations why they have the liberties they have today. But the fight is not over. The LGBTQ community is still fighting to receive basic rights in this world. Just in time for the anniversary, First Run Features is announcing their theatrical re-release of Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community, on June 21st.
Produced by Robert Rosenberg, John Scagliotti and Greta Schiller, the film celebrates the moment in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 when the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's Greenwich Village. That occurrence lead to a three-night standoff, including riots, by the gay community, birthing the start of the gay and lesbian liberation movement. While recognizing the historic moment, the film offers the viewers a glimpse of how life was before the iconic experience. As shared by the filmmakers, Before Stonewall pries open the closet door, setting free the dramatic story of the sometimes horrifying public and private existences experienced by LGBT Americans since the early 1900's. 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.* Schiller also celebrates the 35th anniversary of the film’s original release. She remembers the process and the responsibility she had to the community to do this film justice. “This was my first foray into feature filmmaking. As the first film on an LGBT topic to receive funding from Public Television, we had an enormous responsibility to get it right – and a lot of peer pressure from people around the country who wanted to tell their stories,” expressed Schiller. “Weaving these stories into the social and political tenor of each decade, with my point of view emerging from the material, and the mix of humor and pathos, music and archive footage, has shaped my directorial style ever since. It also honed my focus as a young woman documentarian on making films that map the journeys of ordinary people, whose lives both impacted and were impacted by historical forces. When we set out to make this film, I had no inkling of the meaning it would have around the world.”
Co/Director and Producer, Robert Rosenberg, an independent filmmaker and activist in the LGBTQ including being a Founding Director of the acclaimed Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and the Coral Gables Art Cinema understood the challenge in from of him - breathing life into an already iconic film. “It was a big, sprawling, challenging film to make, and it really was a sort of a ‘Gay History 101’ in terms of any onscreen approach,” said Rosenberg. “No one had dared to or really been able to do this before, though we were of course building on the work of pioneering scholars and community activists who were already documenting LGBT stories and digging into the past. Making ‘Before Stonewall’ for me was also such an incredible and life-changing experience as a younger gay man. I got to hear, face-to-face, the stories of so many older men and women, in a way I would not have without our film project, their tales of heroism, resistance, love and struggle in very different times.”
Quintessential author, Rita Mae Brown, narrates the film. Of those involved with the documentary, Brown is the quintessential individual of “Beyond Stonewall,” coming out in the 1960s and truly experiencing the many stories told in this documentary. Brown shared her experience in being a part of the process and living during such a significant era. “Quote from Brown.”
In restoring the film, The 16mm negative was scanned and digitized at Periscope Films in Los Angeles. The file was then color corrected at Edition Salzgeber in Berlin, who created the ProRes and DCP. Director Greta Schiller supervised the process and approved the new ProRes and DCP. “Quote about the process of restoration.”
When it comes down to it, the amazing moments of this film were the stories of the individuals who lived during that time. featuring interviews Pioneering cultural figures and activists including Audre Lorde, Allen Ginsberg, Harry Hay, Richard Bruce Nugent, Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings, shared their words and feelings.
Stonewall was a moment in the making. Over three nights, lives were changed and the movement would never be the same. It was a special moment the community was waiting for. A moment we’ll celebrate this year, another 50 years and many generations to come.
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