TV Review - Stonewall Uprising
On June 27, 1969, a riot broke out in Lower Manhattan at the Stonewall Inn, a bar and nightclub on Christopher Street. That riot and the bar where it happened is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark. The reason is because that riot and bar "was the scene of important events that sparked the modern struggle for the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans." This is according to the National Park Service, the federal organization that certifies such things. This documentary collects the testimonials of people who were present at the riot to share their thoughts and feelings at the time.
Stonewall Uprising got a limited theatrical release during the summer of 2010 to coincide with the Stonewall riot's 41st anniversary. It was broadcast on PBS as part of the American Experience series on April 25. It was immediately made available on demand and DVD on April 26. It was directed by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner, based on the book by David Carter.
It does a good job of establishing the level of homophobia, bigotry and outright discrimination in New York City against gay people. Greenwich Village in particular was a Mecca for gay people from all over the country and because it was such a visible place, it become the biggest target for hate crimes and even abuses of justices by the police department, gross abuses by the NYPD.
One such gross abuse by the NYPD happened that night of June 27, 1969. Police raided the Stonewall bar, more than likely for no reason or for the most ridiculous of reasons, fueled only by homophobia. That night, however, the people there had had enough, so they resisted arrest and they fought back agaisnt the police. Things escalated, crowds formed and before long a massive riot broke out that literally had the NYPD on the run. The filmmakers even create an animation of how the police ran.
Despite the violence that ensued, many of the testimonials rationalize that "if you don't have extreme, you don't have moderation." They justify the violence that occurred that night as a wake-up call or rallying cry that finally got the gay rights movement going. Some refer to it as "the Rosa Parks moment" for gay people. The government recognizing it as a Historic Landmark would confirm that.
The filmmakers cut together the interviews very well and utilize limited and scant pictures and news reports at the time. They weave together a clear and vivid tale of that night and subsequent morning. The continual references back to CBS Reports' "The Homosexual" (1976) were haunting and effective.
Four Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for General Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 20 mins.