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Time Out New York Project: Issue #768, June 17–23, 2010
Dirs. Kate Davis and David Heilbroner. 2010. N/R. 80mins. Documentary.
Officially acknowledged as the first volley in the Gay Rights Movement, the Stonewall riots have taken on a kind of mythical stature. As one of the introductory titles in this rousing though lightweight doc reminds us, few images were taken at or around the ratty Greenwich Village pub during those three days, when relentlessly persecuted gays finally fought back against law-enforcement oppressors. Coupled with the typically biased back-page reportage by the big newspapers (“Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad,” said the Daily News), the riots became an easy catalyst for queers and their supporters to harness the momentum of the event, springboarding out of the proverbial closet.
Directors Kate Davis and David Heilbroner cannily re-create the period, using actual, horrifying PSAs and a patronizing Mike Wallace television report to show the pervasive antigay sentiments of the pre-Stonewall era. By the time they get to the uprising, the audience’s rah-rah kinship with those in revolt is assured. The filmmakers do a good job of laying out the whos, whys and wheres through diagrams, reenactments and testimonials from veterans on both sides of the skirmish. But a rushed third act, tracing the establishment of the first Gay Pride March, gives only a cursory sense of the event’s ongoing influence. All the little details are touched on, to the neglect of the bigger picture.—Keith Uhlich