Doc of the Day: After Stonewall Review - Dan Schindel

Doc of the Day: After Stonewall

Posted in Days of Docs by - May 19, 2012

A comprehensive history of homosexuality in America, 1970′s through the 1990′s. Day Seven of LGBT Week.

Dir. John Scagliotti, 1999, 88 min

Fourteen years after Before Stonewall, the film’s producer John Scagliotti decided to put together a sequel in order to catch up with what had happened since the Stonewall riots. After Stonewall is a heartening look at how far the gay rights movement came in just a few decades… and a sobering look at how far it still had to go. With more than ten years elapsed since its release, progress seems to have stalled a bit on that front. But as Warren Ellis said, the future is inherently a good thing. Stay optimistic.

As the seventies dawned and American homosexuality was no longer locked in the closet, the subculture exploded. It seemed to be unstoppable in its momentum, right up until the one-two punch of Reagan and AIDS seriously stalled further progress. But progress still came. Openly gay people began getting into public office (and yes, some of them were subsequently murdered, but nonetheless). Wider society slowly began to realize that these “deviants” weren’t so bad after all.

Several cultural phenomena that were only undercurrents in the first film rise to the surface in this one. To counter the rise of the gay rights movement, the religious right rose up in tandem to smack it down. This is the culture war that you can see brewing in Before Stonewall. It continues to this day; I don’t know if you noticed.

I find myself hard-pressed to come up with much to say about After Stonewall because most of what I wrote about its predecessor applies to it. It’s interesting and informative, but emotionally distant. It’s the pinnacle of well-made but somewhat hollow PBS-style journalistic filmmaking. It’s a throughly alright film. And that’s all it needs to be.

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Dan Schindel is a writer and editor. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
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