The Stonewall Riots of 1969 was a series of violent demonstrations spearheaded by the LGBT community long considered the single most important event leading to gay liberation in the United States, and the world over. When the Stonewall Inn in New York, a popular hangout to the marginalized, experienced routine police raids, the LGBT crowd responded by organizing themselves nightly upholding their rights to be welcomed in establishments where they could freely express themselves.
Back in the day, when the US started to “restore the prewar social order and hold off the forces of change”, gay people are considered security risks in the government’s all out campaign against communist activities as they are said to be easily influenced and blackmailed. As a result, gays were publicly humiliated, outlawed, and institutionalized. In effect, individuals and establishments that had been courageous enough to exercise public expressions were raided and arrested. This scenario gave way to various civil rights movements encouraging the LGBT community to rally on the streets and occupy establishments that are deemed avenue of freedom of expression, such as Stonewall. A year later, to celebrate the victory of Stonewall, the first Gay Pride March was held simultaneously in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.
Stonewall, however, was not the first gay rights riot. In 1959, drag queens and street hustlers in LA’s Cooper’s Donuts clashed with the LAPD police to protest harassment. There had been at least 22 gay riots across the USA alone, before the most celebrated one took place in June 28, 1969, New York.
This historic event attracted filmmakers to recreate, adulate. and even re-investigate. There have been at least six successful films that have been made so far:
1. Before Stonewall (Greta Schiller, Robert Rosenberg, 1985, USA)
An examination of the lives of people involved before their participation in the Riots, which gives a glimpse of what life once had been during the “dark period” when being out was a social suicide.
2. Stonewall (Nigel Finch, 1995, UK)
The first dramatic feature about the gay riots that puts a face to the real face of the front-lines: the drag queens, upholding “living with dignity and self-respect” among group of friends even before Stonewall.
3. After Stonewall (John Scagliotti, 1999, USA)
A historical retrospective of Stonewall Riots and the landmark medical declaration that being gay is no longer considered a mental illness.
4. Stonewall Uprising ( Kate Davis, David Heilbroner, 2010, USA)
A documentary that heavily focused on the police raids,which quite drew mixed reactions.
5. From Selma to Stonewall ( Marilyn Bennett, 2015, USA)
A curious exploration on the larger perspective of civil rights movement, whether Equality Movement is the new civil rights movement, or whether they are two different paths leading to the same destination – and why they are always in conflict with each other
6. Stonewall (Roland Emmerich, 2015, USA)
The second and latest dramatic feature about the Stonewall is quite interestingly directed by someone who is identified with summer blockbuster movies. Roland Emmerich (Stargate, Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla), who is actually a generous sponsor to LGBT rights and advocacy, told Vulture that he is very much aware that casting a central character and a name-star (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) might raise unfavorable criticisms as the uprising had no single “identifiable leader-hero.”
“If you can cast a central character with one or two famous actors, you have a good chance to get the movie financed.” Even after the critical and financial success of Brokeback Mountain, Emmerich said it is still an uphill climb to get financiers for a gay themed film. Except for the screenwriter, Jon Robin Baitz, none in the cast nor those in the creative helm is an open member of LGBT.
Emmerich’s Stonewall will be released in mainstream theaters starting September 25.