Category Archives: GLBT documentary

“DISRUPTED” (“QUEBRANTO”)— Mother and Child

disrupted poster

“Disrupted” (“Quebranto”)

Mother and Child

Amos Lassen

Fernando who is now in this 50s was a child actor who came out several years as a transvestite and now calls himself Coral. His/her mother, Lila Ortega is an actress. They live together in Garibaldi where both yearn for their pasts.

Fernando was born the son of a poor Mariachi musician and as the child actor, Pinolito, knew what it was like to be poor and survive. He used music as a way to help his family financially. He became famous in a short time. As a young adult he was on the cabaret circuit and performed every day somewhere. He told his mother that he wanted to become a woman and had felt from a young age that he was really a female. He went through hormone treatments and surgery and is now known as Coral Bonelli. She battles with age, diabetes, social transgender prejudices, and an already-critical show business environment.

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This documentary that is directed by Robert Fiesco takes us into Coral’s life and we go back to childhood, the movie studio where she began her career and some of the nightclubs where she performed.

Director Robert Fiesco’s “Disrupted (Quebranto)” delicately chronicles Bonelli’s life with a compelling trip back to the locations of Coral’s youth: Her childhood home, the movie studio where she was first discovered as an extra, and several of the nightclubs where she resuscitated her career. We meet Patricio, Coral’s childhood acting friend, as well as acclaimed director Jorge Pons, one of Coral’s very first mentors.

Coral is happy when she performs and today she teaches at the local dance studio and also impersonates Mexican singer and actress Lucha Villa at a local drag club. We really feel the sensitivity of the film in the scenes that Coral shares with her mother, Lila who was also once a fledgling singer/dancer who gave up that career so her child could succeed. “Disrupted” reveals her concern for Coral’s happiness, even as she longs for Coral to be recognized as the idol “Pinolito” once was. Lila had pushed him into the movies.

The documentary is something of a long dialogue between Coral/Pinolito and her mother. We hear how from acting, Coral she evolved into dancer/cabaret performer, escort, dance teacher and even street prostitute.  She retained so many masculine physical traits and this made her change of genders difficult.

Filmmaker Roberto Fiesco in his first main directing The film captures the sadness of these two women who cannot stop themselves yearning for their past. Coral however still has no regrets for the brave steps she took in finding her real identity even though she has paid a hefty price for this.  Both mother and daughter who are extremely close, are willing subjects who want to talk about everything they have been through, but it’s the candid long shots that Fiesco includes when they are silent that say the most. Even though the film is not cohesive at times, it is a disconsolate story of two aging extremely likable women who seem to be resigned to living out their days in such a despondently.

 

 

 

“FOR YOU NAKED” — Two Very Different Men Find Love with Each Other

for you naked

“For You Naked” (“För dig naken”)

Two Very Different Men Find Love with Each Other

Amos Lassen

“For You Naked” is an intimate and sensitively filmed love story between one of Scandinavia’s most highly regarded modern painters and a young Brazilian dancer. The two men have had dark pasts as they both have searched for true love. They meet on Skype and can’t communicate but nevertheless they decide to meet and try to fall in love. This is the beginning of an unpredictable and humorous love story with dark undertones of domination and control.

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Lars Ivar Lerin has the reputation of being Sweden’s finest watercolor artist and his work is much sort after.  He is also a recovering alcoholic and drug addicted gay man who is desperate to find a life partner some days.  But there are days when he is not so sure about this or about anything at all. The film was made by his goddaughter Sara Boros and it begins with Lars at the Stockholm airport awaiting the arrival of a man from Brazil, the same one with whom he has been chatting with via Skype. This is their first actual face-to-face meeting. Lars has already passed middle age and his addictions have left a toll on his looks.  Manoel ‘Junior’ Marques is probably in his 30s and he is short, handsome and he is a dancer.  This is the first time he has ever left home and as if the meeting itself is strange enough, neither man can speak the other’s language.

Lars over-thinks everything and he is way too focused on the relationship than he is on the other guy. When Junior, as Lars calls him, is ready to go home to Brazil, both men have mixed feelings. Lars accepts that this should be the end of it all now, but Junior is optimistic and planning to return as soon as he can get a Visa. The moment he has gone Lars starts to miss him, and so changes his mind and encourages him to hurry back as soon as he can.

Junior took Swedish lessons so the second visit begins much better than the first did. It is Junior’s energy that moves the relationship forward and after a year together, the two men are ready to commit to marriage.

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But then, Lars becomes depressed and changes his mind. He asks Junior to move out. Junior takes it in stride and begins establishing a new life. He is sure about two things—one, that we will never go back to Brazil and two, he loves Lars.

 The second visit starts off much better as in the intervening time, Junior has been taking lessons in Swedish.  He still looks like a fish out of water especially when he sees snow for the first time in his life, but he has irrepressible good spirits and makes every effort to fit in with this alien culture.  It is his energy and his humor that propels the relationship along and by the end of their first year together, they are throwing a party for all their friends to announce their engagement. He waits and sure enough, he and Lars get back together.

 Not long after that, Lars has another change of heart and goes into one of his manic depressions and asks Junior to move out.  As the older man rants and gets himself tied up in knots, the younger one accepts the inevitably and starts to establish a new life ….. he was always sure of two things ….. that he wouldn’t go back to Brazil, and that Lars was his true soul mate.  Junior’s patience pays off and he simply bides his time living in the city until the couple get back together again, something that I would never have predicted happening. It is a bit difficult to see what Junior sees in Lars and how he could fall in love with the mean-tempered Lars.

This is a wonderful little documentary, with an interesting story to tell. Look for it, you will be glad that you did.

“AN ISLAND CALLING”— A Murder in Fiji

an island calling

“An Island Calling”

A Murder in Fiji

Amos Lassen

“An Island Calling” is the story of a post-colonial tragedy in Fiji, a small country divided along ethnic and class lines and it is told to us through the eyes of two very different families. John Scott was director of the Fiji Red Cross. He and his partner of twenty years were brutally murdered in the name of God by a young indigenous man, Apete Kaisau. John had reached international notice during the coup of 2000 when he assisted hostages seized by coup leader George Speight. He was also from one of the most powerful European Fijian families. This documentary explores the “paradise” of Fiji and we see that it has been fraught by its colonial history, ethnic and tribal tensions, class differences and political coups

The makers of the documentary assumed that we have some foreknowledge of coups in Fiji so there is not a lot of analysis of what went on between the natives, the population with an Indian heritage and the colonial British. There was a mention of an early confession but this was never explained.

The legacy of colonialism in Fiji led to a tragic end for gay couple John Scott and Greg Scrivener, who were brutally murdered in 2001. The Scotts, part of a long line of prominent white colonial Fijians, enjoyed privilege and status not afforded to the indigenous people. Post-independence, John attempted to rectify this by serving the island as the Director General of the Fiji Red Cross. But political unrest and the influence of evangelical Christianity combined to target John and his lover as victims of a horrific hate crime. The movie follows John’s brother, Owen, as he returns to Fiji to investigate the complex circumstances behind John’s death.

 This is a compelling and extremely moving documentary We watch Owen Scott piece the story together and as we do we experience many emotions and feel an overwhelming sense of sadness that is soon overtaken by anger and frustration. The film is a reminder of what homophobia can do.

“BWAKAW” — Growing Old Alone

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“BWAKAW”

Growing Old Alone

Amos Lassen

Most of us are afraid of growing old alone. Here we meet Rene (Eddie Garcia). A gay man who did not come out until he was 70. He is ailing and he thinks it is too late to find love or even companionship and the only thing that he has to look forward is death. He has drawn up his will and left the few possessions that he has to few friends and he has taken care that everything is packed and labeled and ready to be given to those he has named. He has even bought his own coffin and did so during the funeral home’s summer sale.

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There days Rene has only one companion, a stray dog named Bwakaw who hangs around his house and follows him everywhere. As he sits and waits to die, Rene gets a terrible surprise—Bwakaw becomes ill with cancer and Rene is terribly affected by this. He understands that he Bwakaw is more valuable to him than he thought and he struggles to find a doctor who can cure the dog. He finds comfort and solace with Sol, a tricycle driver that helps him take the dog to the vet and befriends him. With the help of Sol, Rene starts living. Little by little he discovers simple joys. To the surprise of his friends, he even has his hair dyed to look younger. One day, he finally decides to make a move on Sol. The revelation that Rene is gay and has feelings for him surprises and disgusts Sol and he rejects Rene and leaves in anger. In the meantime, Bwakaw’s condition gets worse and cannot be cured, it seems. The dog dies, and Rene’s neighbors help him bury the faithful dog. But Bwakaw’s death, even while it was still only imminent, has made a difference. Rene has found a new appreciation for life and what is most important, he decides to unpack the things that he has already willed to other people and make his house more inhabitable. He is, after all, still alive.

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Jun Robles Lana’s Bwakaw is a comedy with macabre gallows humor and it totally original. Coming to terms with his homosexuality late in life, Garcia’s hunched hero is frustrated. It’s implied that he’s never even been with a man (or a woman), grouchily refusing the boy-toy offerings of a local transvestite pimp (Joey Paras) while slowly forming a relationship with a gruff, straight, married cab driver (Rez Cortez). Indeed, the only man in Rene’s bed is a shrouded, life-size statue of Christ, which may be magical: a commingling of homoerotic desire and Catholic guilt that sums up Rene’s own fraught conception of himself. He petitions his priest, who pulls double duty as the executor of his estate, to pray for him, mediating his own ambivalent search for salvation. Drifting through his twilight years, Rene spends his days revising his last will and testament, sparring with the employees of the post office he used to work at visiting an old girlfriend in an old-folks home. Most important to him is the time he spends with his dog. Bwakaw isn’t only his faithful companion, but an idealized object of all his pent-up romantic longing. Despite the dog’s affection, Rene’s love for the animal runs entirely one way: Bwakaw may not be able to provide Rene the love he desires from a human partner, but it can’t reject its master’s affections. Rene doesn’t have to lie to love Bwakaw. When the dog develops cancer, his owner is panicked in his desire to fix him up. It’s not only a confrontation with his own mortality, but with the sad reality of a half-lived life.

. As seriously as the movie takes the issue of Rene’s own sexuality, it elsewhere treats the gay members of his small town as flamboyant and clownish. Perhaps their ability to be so flamboyant and clownish reveals the larger culture of acceptance in this backwater berg, a generous reading betrayed by the community’s skepticism of Cortez’s tough-looking cabbie. At one point, while turning down another svelte, apparently mute boy prostitute, Rene comments that he’s “not that kind of a gay man.” While the film is fairly diligent in probing the character’s lonely, delimited conception of his own sexuality, it also weirdly seems to place pride in his shuffling existence as a hard-nosed celibate, the weight of his exasperated desire his cross to bear.

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If the sexual politics run a bit watery at times, it seems less a matter of bad faith than over-eagerness. Rene has alienated the few people in his life with his caustic comments and his decidedly unfriendly attitude.  He lives alone in a shabby house in a small provincial town in the Philippines, and he is just waiting to die.  Now 80, he is filled with regret that beyond the one platonic girlfriend he strung along for a time, he has never had a close relationship with anyone.  One of his ex-school mates, an outrageously camp hairdresser is constantly trying to fix Rene up with young rent boys, but that is hardly his style.

As lonely as Rene’s life may be, there are also some hilarious moments in this movie that so well captures the fear of growing old alone. Here is a film that you do not want to miss.

“CALL ME LUCKY”— Meet Barry Crimmins

call me lucky

“Call Me Lucky”

Meet Barry Crimmins

Amos Lassen

Comedian and activist Barry Crimmins is a simple man with just two humble objectives in his life; “Overthrow the United States government and close the Catholic Church.”  Bobcat Goldthwait’s new documentary, “Call Me Lucky” is about both Crimmins’ invectives and from where they come.

Barry Crimmins hasn’t been afraid to add some substance to his stand-up comedy routine.  He was part of the Boston-area comedy boom in the ‘80s that brought about a new awareness of stand-up comedians that is still continuing.  He was a “ferocious performer who freely mixed politics” and he had to ability to teach us something while at the same time pissing others off. What we know now is that beneath the stage persona he was hiding a terrible secret. He eventually came forward and told the world that as a child he had been sexually abused and this opened a whole new chapter in his life. Crimmins became an advocate for children. He opened the doors so that the regulations and protocols of today could come into being. His mission and his goal in life became sparing children from the pain that he had felt and still feels.

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The first part of the film deals with Crimmins’ early career and how he impacted the comedy scene in Boston. We see a stream of stand up comedians of that era including Steven Wright, Kevin Meaney, Lenny Clarke, and Goldthwait himself, as they reminisce about the impact Crimmins had on them.  One comedian said that” Barry was like a combination of Noam Chomsky and Bluto from Popeye”. He took care of other comedians and encouraged them to take chances and experiment with their personal styles.  We sense the love they feel for him. The love and respect they feel for him and Goldthwait amplifies this by keeping things fast-paced and funny. 

The second half of the film is totally different and director Goldthwait was very clever with the transition. He allowed us to bond with Crimmins in the first half by telling us all about him and so now we are ready for more. We continue to laugh but from a darker place. Crimmins knew this and so he channeled his anger and rage into an assault that is filled with humor.

What we have is a documentary that looks thin on the surface but that becomes remarkably perceptive about the human condition.  Goldthwait explores Crimmins’ tempestuous behavior, his impassioned rants about power-structures and the state of America, rants that cost him a career in comedy and the patience of most his friends. But people still love the man and that’s because he speaks the truth no matter what the circumstance.

Goldthwait allows Crimmins tell his own story on his own terms and he leads us into his life, leading us by the nose into his scarred but triumphant existence.

“ALIVE” (“VIVANT”)— The First Solo Jump

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“Vivant!” (“Alive!”)

The First Solo Jump

Amos Lassen

I love that there are always new ideas for movies and while I did not think I would be interested in a film about guys taking their first solo parachute jump, I was wrong. I love this little film about the week of training undergone by five HIV+ men leading up to their first solo parachute jump and the way it documents the development of unlikely friendships that came into being in such a disparate group.

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The focus is spread quite evenly between the interpersonal relationships of the five men and on the quite intense training for the parachute jump. As we can imagine, the training is both physically and mentally demanding, and we see these men visibly struggle to deal with and use all the information needed to make a successful jump.

As the day for the jump gets closer, the group witnesses a near-catastrophic problem in the air and we in the audience share in the very real feeling that there is a great more danger than they had considered and watching this is fascinating. As time moves closer to the actual jump, the film changes its focus to the friendships between the guys. As the relationships become stronger, the conversations become more intimate and personal—something we would not expect from a group of people who had been strangers.

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The five offer very different viewpoints on the relationships they have with significant others and sexual partners. We get the context as we hear stories of their first loves, first kisses and some less-enjoyable situations they have found themselves in. Some of the stories are quite difficult to hear and so I can imagine how difficult they were to tell but hearing gives a much deeper understanding of the situation these men face everyday.

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We see wide aerial shots interspersed with close-ups, drawing contrasts between the adrenaline rush of the jump and the quieter moments of introspection and intimacy. The overall story is beautifully related, as are the men’s stories of loneliness and, conversely, fear of intimacy and they provide unique and very personal insights.

“LARRY KRAMER IN LOVE AND ANGER”— Author, Activist, Playwright and Academy Award Winner

larry-kramer

“Larry Kramer in Love and Anger”

Author, Activist, Playwright and Academy Award Winner

Amos Lassen

Larry Kramer is a hero and a legend—an author, a screenwriter, a playwright, a gay activist and a man who believes in good. He is one of the most important and controversial figures in contemporary gay America, He shows his outrage and his grief and he inspired an entire generation that we might have lost to fight for their lives. Now he is 78 and he commands our attention and is revered and reviled by many. He is outspoken–some say that he is insanely enraged and he used his anger for the gay civil rights movement and also to stop the deaths from AIDS. His life is one of saying what he thinks without regard for whom it might hurt. He was a one-band man and we see that throughout this documentary. While AIDS was ravaging our community, Kramer condemned the promiscuity that once seemed to be a part of the way we lived. His book “Faggots” that was meant to be a satire of gay life was often (and still is) thought to be an act of self-hatred even though he meant it to be a reflection of our behavior at the time.

Director Jean Carlomusto shows us just how alone he was by interviewing Kramer’s co-workers and community members who now forget about how it was and regale Kramer for his bravery and fortitude at a time when the future looked bleak (or if we even had a future). Kramer saw “homosexuality as condemned by overt sexualisation.” We have to think about why gay men consistently are considered more promiscuous than heterosexuals? Why does the status quo accept a lifestyle encapsulated by, as Kramer spits, “asses and dicks”?

The film is really about looking at the original issues and the politics of sexuality—it is about us knowing who and where we are and how poorly we were treated as a community at the height of the AIDS plague (Kramer does not use the word epidemic—it was much worse than that, he says). The film reminds us that Kramer was at the forefront of trying to save lives as he battled his own HIV/AIDS diagnosis. I wish we could have seen a bit more of him.

The documentary was made with love and respect for Larry Kramer and it consists of photographs, public appearances, interviews and so on and we get to meet an iconic hero of our community. The film will be aired on HBO in June.

“PERVERT PARK”— A Trailer-Home Community for Adults Only

pervert park

“Pervert Park”

A Trailer-Home Community for Adults Only

Amos Lassen

Scandinavian directors Frida and Lasse Barkfors take a look at Florida Justice Transition, an adults-only trailer-home community: a space designed for previously convicted sex offenders reintegrating into society, post-incarceration. “Pervert Park” traces the stories of a handful of people who live here and, according to Florida law, cannot take up residence within 1,000 feet of communal spaces where children normally congregate because of these offenses. “Pervert Park” tells us about these individuals’ respective, harrowing pasts. William Fuery, for instance, dually experienced physical, emotional and psychological abuse from his parents and sexual abuse from his female babysitter. After trauma and strife throughout his life, a subconsciously ingrained fetish from his abusive upbringing manifested itself between him and a minor, and Fuery now looks back at the culmination of his mistake with a social-anthropological lens. Tracy Hutchinson, similarly, was sexually abused by her father and did so unto her son. Contrastingly, Patrick Naughton—who raped a young girl—comes across as less of a product of a caustic environment and more of a case of severe self-esteem issues, as seen by his confession of previous anger toward women after a series of relationships that went awry. The film balances the graveness of this topic with humanizing the subjects of this documentary, who lament their offenses and solely blame themselves. Each Florida Justice Transition dweller’s story varies from the other to show the diversity of sex offenders. “Pervert Park” effectively portrays their circumstances and the complexity of this issue with these portraits.

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This is a sad tale of a close-knit community built on tragedy and trying to edge out an existence in the aftermath of their own making. There are 120 sex offenders living in a trailer park and they talk about how they came to such a desperate place through counseling sessions and communal healing. This group of convicted sex offenders must stay away from children, schools, bus stops and other places where they are seen as a threat to the public. While many grew up amidst abuse, others had no such excuses. The subjects explain themselves to the camera, telling us stories of pain that has been perpetuated throughout generations, how moments of stupidity echo through decades, the effects of sensory addiction, and various tales of entrapment.

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The film is uncomfortable to watch as it show us a portion of the United States population that is basically forgotten about when they’re not being singled out for how dangerous they may be. These people live at the margins (mostly for good reasons) and struggle to survive as society rejects them. Talking out what they have done and what effect it may have had on their victims is hard to hear the filmmakers wisely lay whatever the offenders have to say before us bare and unflinching. There is no end result to all of this except trying to talk about what happened and think about the line that can’t be uncrossed. Shame, guilt, and denial all swirl around to create a terrible cloud of torment that can’t be dissipated. The camera simply hovers, listens, follows their daily lives, and moves on after they haven’t any more to say. This direct approach is affecting and troubling.

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The film doesn’t ask anyone to forgive or forget but rather to consider the myriad of different contexts that these individuals come from and that the pain goes on without society enforcing it. While everyone here takes responsibility for his or her actions, they also have an uncomfortable tendency to rationalize their crimes. Many of the offenders interviewed were themselves molested as children. The hardest of the testimonies to see and hear comes from Tracy Hutchinson, a mother who, after having been raped by her father while still in the crib, spiraled downward into a series of unhealthy sexual relationships. In a devastating open interview, she describes how she got an abortion at age 11 and, years later, seduced her own son, who in turn molested a 3-year-old boy. “Pervert Park” won a special jury award at Sundance 2014.

“DRAG BECOMES HIM”—A Documentary about Jinkx Monsoon

drag becomes him

“DRAG BECOMES HIM”

A Documentary about Jinkx Monsoon

Amos Lassen

Jinkx Monsoon stars in the documentary “Drag Becomes Him” by director Alex Berry that will be having its to world premiere in Seattle, Washington on April 29, 2015.

Jinkx was the winner of season five of LOGO TV’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. “Based on a series of short films made by Berry and Jerick Hoffer, Jinkx’s boyish half both before and after the filming of RPDR, the film chronicles the path of Jinkx/Jerick from their hometown of Portland, Oregon, to Cornish College of the Arts here in Seattle and the establishment of their drag career in the clubs and bars of Capitol Hill. Along the way, you’ll hear Jinkx/Jerick tell the story of their journey with the help of family, friends, and co-stars giving their own testimony. For Seattle fans, it will be a special treat as dozens of familiar faces will appear in the film which also features “Seattle” as a major character in the story, as showcased by the gorgeous night time camera work of director Alex Berry.”

Drag Becomes Him is a behind-the-scenes foray into the personality and passion of entertainer Jerick Hoffer, also known as Jinkx Monsoon, a drag queen Seattle’s The Stranger dubs “the best f**king performer in Seattle.” The cherished original series will be expanded to include additional footage and an entirely new edit, offering an even deeper glimpse into the life of this charming, Gregory Award-winning, off-Broadway-performing, RuPaul’s Drag Race-winning, all-around lovable drag superstar. Drag Becomes Him is directed by Alex Berry and produced by Basil Shadid and Dual Power Productions. Jerick Hoffer (aka Jinkx Monsoon) is a seasoned Portland-born entertainer and graduate of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. As early as 2006, he appeared as the lead dancer in the world’s largest drag queen chorus line, which made the Guinness Book of World Records. By 2012, he had advanced to roles in Seattle theaters, playing Moritz in Spring Awakening (Balagan Theatre) and Angel in RENT”.

“’Drag Becomes Him’” provides an intimate glimpse inside the life of internationally acclaimed drag performer Jinkx Monsoon. This raw and affectionate film follows the passionate pursuits that transformed a working class boy in a struggling family to an illustrious performer on a global stage.

“Influenced by a grandmother with charm school polish, Jerick Hoffer learned to fuse the sophistication of a southern belle with the crass behavior of a working girl. Jinkx Monsoon has what RuPaul describes as “a stage left, off center kind of quality.””

Drag Becomes Him follows Jinkx’s trajectory from a small stage in Portland, Oregon through a growing career in Seattle to the relinquishing of the crown one year after winning RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Expanded from the acclaimed five-part web series of the same name, this cherished portrayal of Jinkx Monsoon peels back the layers on one of the brightest stars on the drag circuit.

 

 

“OUT IN THE NIGHT”— The New Jersey Four

out in the night

“Out in the Night”

The New Jersey Four

Amos Lassen

The media branded Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson, Terrain Dandridge, and Venice Brown as a “Gang of Killer Lesbians”. They are four gay black women who were sentenced to egregiously long prison sentences after being engaged in a violent altercation with a man who had verbally and physically harassed them in New York’s Greenwich Village. Thos documentary looks at that and it examines the case from a social and humanistic perspective.

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It happened one summer evening in 2006. Seven lesbian friends from Newark went to New York City, in order to get away from the sexist taunts and remarks they often had to deal with on the streets of their hometown. As they walked in front of the IFC Center movie theater, they were verbally accosted by 29-year Dwayne Buckle and they answered his sexist remarks by telling him that they were gay but this did not stop him and, in fact, he threatened to “fuck them straight”. Things got hot and tense and a brawl ensued. One of the women stabbed Buckle in the stomach and as the event got wild, two male passersby also became involved but left the scene before police arrived.

The seven women were arrested and charged with a wide variety of crimes that included gang assault and attempted murder. Three of them pled guilty and received reduced sentences. The others went to trial and claimed self-defense and they received prison sentences ranging from 3½ to 11 years.

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The media became involved in the case and labeled the women as a gang, “a lesbian sex pack” and “killer lesbians”. The case became important to the LGBT community and argued that the women had been unfairly treated because of their race and sexuality. Former black radical Angela Davis publicly wondering if the women would have been treated differently if had been white.

It is only fair to say that this is not a balanced film. The judge and the prosecutor declined to be interviewed. Buckle also refused to participate, although portions of his trial testimony are recited by an actor. One of the police officers involved tells us that the “gang” label was not from the women actually having any gang affiliation, but from the legal definition involving three or more persons participating in a violent assault. We do see some grainy security camera footage of the brief event (it lasted approximately four minutes) and it seems to bear out the women’s version. Director Bair-Dorosh-Walther places a strong emphasis on Patreece Johnson, the woman who stabbed Buckle and who received the longest sentence but there is one point on which I found the film to be a bit weak and that deals with the way the legal process took place. There is the emphasis on gender here and the film tries hard to link the crime to that but it seems to me that it tried too hard. We are all aware that the media tend toward bias and that is very clearly pointed out here.

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What is, indeed, so interesting here is that the four young black lesbians were defending themselves from assault by a homophobic black man who was considered to be the victim in the eyes of the press while the women were vilified by the media.

The film uses video from the crime scene, court transcripts and interviews with lawyers, police, journalists friends and family of the women and the women themselves. It is so clear that justice was miscarried here.

Greenwich Village has always been regarded as a safe place for the LGBT community as well as for people of color. If we revisit what happened again that night when the women were verbally assaulted by Dwayne Martin, a 29 year-old Black male who was selling DVDs on the street, we get a better understanding of the entire situation. Buckle started the entire situation by orally taunting the girls. A nearby video camera in a store shows the girls walking away and Buckle following them constantly yelling insults and obscene remarks as he grabbed at his penis. The women then turned around and confronted him at which point Buckle spit in the face of one of the girls. He also threw a lit cigarette at the girls and this caused the attack to change from verbal to physical and on the video, Buckle can be seen pulling out large patches of hair from one of the females. When Buckle managed to get on top of one of the women and began choking her, Johnson pulled a small steak knife out of her purse and aimed for his arm to stop him from killing her friend. On the video are seen two men running over the help the woman and they began beating Buckle. The video captures two men finally running over to help the women and beating Buckle who, at some point, was stabbed in the abdomen. The women were already walking away across the street by the time the police arrived.

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We learn that Buckle was hospitalized for five days after surgery for a lacerated liver and stomach. When asked at the hospital, he responded that at least twice that men had attacked him. There was no evidence that Johnson’s kitchen knife was the weapon that penetrated his abdomen, nor was there any blood visible on it. As a matter of fact, no forensics testing was ever done on her knife. On the night they were arrested, the police told the women that there would be a search by the New York Police Department for the two men yet, as of today, has not happened. After almost a year of trial, the four women were convicted. Johnson received a sentence of 11 years. Admittedly, everything sounds very strange.

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Even with Buckle’s admission and the video footage proving that he instigated this anti-gay attack, the women were relentlessly slandered and demonized in the press and trumped-up felony charges were levied against them. They were subsequently given long sentences in order to send a clear resounding message—that self-defense is a crime and no one should dare to fight back. This is the work of the police whose duty is protect us but it really seems that we need to be protected from them. If we ask ourselves how something like this could happen in 21st century America, the only answers we can find deal with overt prejudice, homophobia, distrust of women and racism. It all makes my stomach turn. I can only hope that this movie serves as a call to action.