Title: After Stonewall; Before Stonewall; Stonewall
Release Date: 1998
Nationality and Language:
Running time: about 85 minutes each (first two films)
Distributor and Production Company: Independent PBS (first
Director; Writer: Producer: James Scagliotti
Cast: Frederick Weller (in “Stonewall”)
Relevance to doaskdotell site: gay history
Independent/PBS films (Public Broadcasting, Corporation for Public
Broadcasting); Producer: James Scagliotti; PG-13
(TV-14); First aired on PBS
Is this the great, expansive film-symphony that engages the average viewer in the history of personal libertarion?
Maybe not quite. When
this film was shown in
The film, in fact,
comprises a long series of vignettes and interview-clips with gay history
figures like Frank Kameny, Larry Kramer, Phil Johnson,
Elizabeth Birch and Barbara Gittings. All the clips
are shot on-location; we even get to see a gay demonstration in
Properly, the film
presents post-Stonewall gay history as three chapters: the liberationist
70's, the ages of AIDS, and the political renewal of the 90's (with some
coverage of gays in the military). The Anita Bryant ("Save our
Children") anti-gay crusade, and 1978 Briggs iniative
(an attempted military-style ban on gay teachers in
Interesting are the film
clips of our "enemies," especially Jesse Helms,
who at one point asks (when talking about AIDS), why just they don't stop?
The film doesn't really answer that. Jerry Falwell,
Scagliotti points out some historical facts that I overlooked in my own research for DADT. For example, the early women's movement (National Organization for Women), as symbolized by Betty Friedan (known for getting [married] women back to work after childbirth), actually resisted the participation of open lesbians. During the gays in the military debate in 1993, President Clinton reported called David Mixner (Stranger Among Friends) and "asked" for six months of grace before coming up with an "honorable compromise"; and when President Clinton announced his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue" compromise in July 1993 (a policy which could have been acceptable if both Congress and the military had honored it) Mixner had himself arrested at a demonstration.
The film does focus upon gays as a "minority" and as somewhat separate from the rest of society. Yet, it presents the portion of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential nomination acceptance speech, where he says "It's not 'them the gays,' it is not them, it is us, we are all Americans." And it does present some libertarian precepts, such as when pornography is discussed, and the point is made that the government wanted to take back all discussion of "sex" in the early 1980's. Right on.
What I want to see from
this kind of exposition, however, is a relation back to the whole theme of
individualism, which I think began to blossom in this country as the war in
The film ends with a performance by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus.
The earlier film, Before Stonewall,
does a good job of portraying the skittishness of Depression/World War
II/Eisenhower era society on homosexuality. (Things had almost broken out in
the 1920's, especially in Germany.) It just scratches the surface on the
psychologically adaptive denial that explains this homophobia. You could be
committed if somebody "found out." (Well, I was!) The point that
the military could look the other way when it had to (as did General
Eisenhower when confronted by the fact that his
Neither of these films should be confused with Strand Releasing's
film Stonewall (1996), starring Frederick
Weller, who comes across as the super virile, "masculine gay"
always helping his drag queen friends and more obvious "sissy boys"
out of trouble in the days before the Stonewall riots. Funny is the scene
where he helps one boy avoid the draft (by the Marines, no less -- the
Marines really did draft people for a while during
Stonewall Uprising (2010, First Run/PBS/American Experience, dir. Kate Davis and David Heilbroner). Blogger.
Related reviews: Latter Days, etc.
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