Stonewall Uprising
Don’t tase me, bro!

Theatrical Release Date: 06/25/2010
Directors: Kate Davis & David Heilbroner

June 28, 1969. The day began as just any other, as normal as it gets in the midst of the Vietnam War and on the heels of numerous strides to close the racial equality gap earlier in the decade. Still, few could have predicted that a police raid on a mafia run gay bar would ignite another civil rights movement in America – but that’s just what happened that night at the Stonewall Inn bar in New York City and that’s the subject of Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s documentary, “Stonewall Uprising”.

At the time, homosexuality was widely regarded as a mental disease and most related activities were either illegal, publicly shameful or both. An individual in the documentary mentions that for gay men and lesbians, there wasn’t a question of being in or out, you were gay and you hid it from society.

Only in metropolitan cities could groups of gays and lesbians find semi-public avenues to meet and mingle. One of the best known areas was Christopher Street in New York City, where the Stonewall Inn was situated. Usually, the mob payoffs to cops kept the raids to a minimum and at off-peak times.

Of course, as the documentary illustrates, on this particular raid, the Stonewall’s patrons decided they had endured enough persecution and decided to fight back. Riots broke out and it galvanized not only the gay community but also other discriminated groups such as the Black Panthers and normal, everyday citizens who had until that point, turned a blind eye to legislation and its enforcement.

What elevates the documentary from a simple recounting of the incident and the days that followed is a well composed narrative of the atmosphere in America at the time. The stories of those who were there tell the tale of what it was like to hide your true selves, the consequences of being caught and the ways in which that night led to greater and greater social liberties and personal freedom.

The filmmakers did a nice job of blending what little actual footage of the incident exists with a few dramatizations, incorporated news coverage and overall, balanced talking heads with those other elements well. There are still a few moments when it becomes a bit too dry but “Stonewall Uprising” illustrates an important moment in U.S. civil rights and is well worth your time to check out, getting a 3.5 out of 5.