On a hot summer night in 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn – all gay, all exhibiting different ways of being gay – were asked to leave the bar. A police raid was on, unplanned and unannounced. But, instead of leaving quietly, they stood tall and said for once “We’re not going.”

Thus became the Stonewall Riots – or as someone better suggested, an Uprising. For three nights, Christopher Street in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan became a clash between police and homosexuals and everyone else who decided to fight for their cause. They came to rebel against a system of oppression that has kept them down, reduced to diseased and mentally ill individuals that were unable to contribute anything to society.

The riots had the desired effect. Gay pride was born, not just in New York, but everywhere around the world, and it continues to today.

The documentary brings in people who were there that night – gays and lesbians, newspaper reporters, and the captain of the police unit that participated in the raid that night – as well as other individuals that were in and around New York at that time – doctors, congressmen, etc. Everyone has their own story of growing up in a hate filled America. No one could come out, but at least some people had a chance to escape. New York City offered one of those places.

The first half of the film deals with the people growing up, mixed together with various clips describing homosexuality as a disease, one that could cause you life harm. One particularly affecting one involved a police chief talking to a auditorium full of young students: one-third of every student there, he claimed, would become homosexual or be in a homosexual act. Don’t do it, don’t get caught, cause if you do, life is over. When every state but Illinois in 1969 banned homosexuality, you know your life would be done.

The first half of the film is wildly unfocused at times though, between the life stories and the varied clips. There was no sense of linear transgression; the stories themselves served to highlight America in the late sixties.  These stories during the first half are important though to show the plight people went through.  Forget marriage: acceptance was the biggest cause to fight for.

Which even today, sadly, still seems hard to come by, both in America and in other parts of the world.

The documentary refocuses itself when the riots occur, even with the chaos during the riots. It’s typical of an important event such as the Stonewall Riots. The people who were there remember what they saw, and sometimes it clashed with what other people at the same event saw.  What matters most is that these people were able to recount what occurred.  They were the direct sources, the ones affected most, and they lived through it.

Not perfect by any means, but this is definitely a go-to source for anyone who wanted to see what actually happened during the riots from the people who lived through it, and the hell in general they had to experience to reach that point. Informative and worthwhile.

B

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