May 8, 2011

Queer Review: Stonewall Uprising (2010)

Stonewall Uprising
Directors: Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

It was called many things, The Stonewall Riots, Revolution, Insurrection, Rebellion. Stonewall Uprising is a comprehensive documentary on the events at the Stonewall Inn on June 28th, 1969 that launched the LGBTQIA civil rights movement.

Stonewall Uprising tells the story of that fateful night when the Stonewall bar was raided by police and the inevitable riots that followed. Also explores the conditions faced by Queers prior to the Stonewall Riots in order to demonstrate the impact that the riots had.

The Queering
Documentaries can be a tricky thing. They can too easily become boring and pedantic, especially if the subject matter is well known. Stonewall Uprising does not fully overcome this problem, but covers a wide enough variety of topics to avoid becoming deathly dull.

This is the strongest aspect of Stonewall Uprising, that it does not limit itself to the events of that night. It discusses how and why the Stonewall Inn came to be run by the Mafia, as well as the widespread oppression faced by queers prior to the Stonewall Riots. One thing I really appreciated was that it did not ignore the fact that there existed - what was referred to at the time - The Homophile Movement, as too often those who cover the Stonewall Riots in an attempt to beef up the importance of those events. However Stonewall Uprising also does show the limited impact groups such as the Mattachine Society had.

Since few photos and no video footage exists of the Stonewall Riots themselves, obviously a lot of hard work had to have been done by the filmmakers to fill an hour and a half movie. There are interviews from those who participated in the riots and most remarkably from police officer, Seymour Pine, who led the original raid on the Stonewall Inn. Unfortunately, it is difficult to gauge his true feelings on the matter. While on one hand he does weakly defend the actions of the police, he also states at one point, “You knew they broke the law, but what kind of law was that?"

Strongly recommended, particularly for those with an interest in the history of the Queer/LGBTQIA civil rights movement.

The Rating


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