Directed by Greta Schiller, Before Stonewall is a 1985 documentary that has been restored by First Run Features for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. It opens today in New York and June 28 in Los Angeles as well as other select theaters across America.
The roots of the "gay liberation" movement are widely recognized as having ignited in June of 1969 when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Led particularly by trans women of color (Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy), the city's LGBTQ community engaged in three days of riots. Eventually, this led to more publicly acknowledged activist groups, political change, and the Pride parades we know today.
Before 1969, however, the queer community was underground and forced into the closet by society. As seen in Schiller's film, there was always love and joy to be found as those who were LGBTQ worked hard to not just exist but to thrive in spite of the violent oppression they faced daily. Before Stonewall gives a voice to those who lived before queer visibility was possible and explores not only how the LGBTQ people forged their own way but how that journey continues today.
Those interviewed in the film include Ann Bannon, Martin Duberman, Allen Ginsberg, Barbara Gittings, Harry Hay, Mabel Hampton, Dr. Evelyn Hooker, Frank Kameny, Audre Lorde, Richard Bruce Nugent, Jose Sarria, and many others.
The West Hollywood Library will host a women's panel discussion on the film called "Writing Lesbians into History: The Making of Before Stonewall" Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Guests will include Schiller, author Jewelle Gomez, and ONE Archives Foundation Executive Director Jennifer C. Gregg, and the panel will be moderated by Executive Director of Women in Film Kirsten Schaffer. The International Documentary Association and Outfest are cohosting with Women in Film.
To attend, RSVP here.
Director: Greta Schiller
Co-Directer: Robert Rosenberg
Executive Producer: John Scagliotti
Research Director: Andrea Weiss
Editor: Bill Daughton
Narrator: Rita Mae Brown