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Who could have guessed that a bunch of men in dresses would breath life into the movement to win equal rights for gay men and lesbians? Certainly not the police who raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular "drag" bar in Greenwich Village. After a long history of police raids, extortion, and brutality, a gaggle of drag queens at the Stonewall decide they have had enough and begin to riot when the police try to load them into a paddy wagon. Told by "La Miranda" (Hector), a regular customer at the Stonewall Inn, the film is a recounting of events that led up to that fateful day in 1969. "Matty Dean" is the handsome angry young man that La Miranda meets at the Stonewall one day and with whom she/he quickly falls in love. "Bostonia" is the self-styled Queen Mother of the drag queens and guides each initiate gently "into the life." Her lover, Vinnie, is the closeted proprietor of the Stonewall. His tragic response to the suffocation he feels bearing down on him from a homophobic world -- perhaps...Written by
Mark Fleetwood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Early in the film, there is a shot of a sign being posted that said "We homosexuals plead with our people to please help maintain peaceful and quiet conduct on the streets of the Village." This was an actual sign which was prominently and publicly posted outside the original Stonewall Inn in early summer 1969, about one month prior to the Stonewall Riots began. See more »
The sip-in depicted took place in 1966, not 1969. It was not the Stonewall Inn that refused service, but a bar called Julius (which is shown as the sip-in's first stop in the film). See more »
There are several thousand Stonewall stories in the Big Apple, this is one of them.
The major value of the film Stonewall is to remind all of us just what gay people dealt with before a big rebellion took place in the last week of June in 1969. The film is based on a novel by historian Martin Duberman and the director Nigel Finch died before his testament of the Stonewall Rebellion could be seen and appreciated.
A couple of love stories are involved here. Country boy Frederick Weller arrives from Kansas and he's hoping that New York City will be more accepting of him. Or at least he'll find a community of sorts. That part of the story hasn't ever changed. He's caught between young closeted gay lawyer Brendan Corbalis and professional drag queen Guillermo Diaz.
The second love story is between the owner of the Stonewall Inn and a drag queen played by Bruce MacVittie and Duane Boutte. MacVittie has lived all his life with all the insane rules placed on same sex contact by society and its criminal code against sodomy. Boutte is ready to rebel, but MacVittie counsels go slow it's the way of things in this world. Still he's having just about enough of it.
Weller is a rebellious sort, he gets caught in a bar raid the first night he's in New York. Apparently the concept of freedom in America doesn't extend to those who love of the same sex. He finds the Mattachine Society with their button down ways and it ain't for him. But in a way they do fire his revolutionary ardor.
The Mattachine Society comes in for quite a beating in Stonewall. They were a radical concept in their idea when the mere idea of protesting these laws was radical. In a scene laced with humor and irony Weller is with a group with accompanying press who challenges the law against serving liquor to known homosexuals. Yes there indeed was such a law. The only place that enforces the ordinance is a gay bar because they're afraid of police entrapment.
Of course the end of the film is the riot at the Stonewall Inn which sparked a movement. The unbelievable but true twist on events is the cops including the NYPD's crack tactical police unit equipped for riots retreating into a newly emptied Stonewall Inn for their own safety is truly a sight to behold.
This is a fine film which captures the spirit of that night when it wasn't button down businessmen and lawyers, but rebels in high heels who changed America and the world.
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