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Before Stonewall [Import]


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Product Details

  • Actors: Rita Mae Brown, Red Jordan Arobateau, Ann Bannon, Lisa Ben, Gladys Bentley
  • Directors: Greta Schiller, Robert Rosenberg
  • Producers: Greta Schiller, Robert Rosenberg, John Scagliotti
  • Format: Black & White, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Import
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: Knightscove-Ellis International
  • Release Date: May 18 2004
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001US7TU


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Format: DVD
Originally produced for PBS television, the Emmy-winning "Before Stonewall" is a must-see documentary for anyone researching Gay American history. What makes this film so invaluable is its success in recreating - through photographs, film clips, and later-day interviews - a period in time that was carefully and deliberately NOT recorded as it was happening due to the pervasive institution of "the closet", and the very real dangers that faced those brave enough to crack open the door and step out into the light. As one courageous lesbian pioneer remembers, just being accused of being a gay woman was grounds for involuntary commitment to a mental institution during her youth. Small wonder, then, that there is such a paucity of material documenting the gay movement pre-Stonewall, especially during the years from 1900-1950, before the earliest Gay and Lesbian social and political institutions in the United States were founded.
The cornerstone of this remarkable film is the handful of interviews conducted with some elderly activists from the years before the Stonewall riots began on June 27, 1969. With humor, dignity, and matter-of-fact courage, these men and women tell personal stories about their experiences in the armed forces, in the halls of government, in society, and in their home lives during the years in which America at large experienced the roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War, the beginning of the Baby Boom era, and the radical Sixties. Their recollections are not only fascinating and brilliantly told; they are of critical importance in understanding the true heritage and history of today's American gay community. The DVD edition offers some fascinating extra material, including some expanded interviews, and footage of poet Allen Ginsberg reading two of his early compositions. Very highly recommended in terms of both quality and content.
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Format: VHS Tape
'Before Stonewall' was not just a celebratory film documenting the underground gay resistance to [...] America before the historic moment of Stonewall in 1969. As the frightening utterances of then-President Reagan reveal, this was very much an urgent political gesture, a protest against 80s conservative retrenchment.
This is an illuminating and endearing documentary, full of wonderful anecdotes (e.g. Eisenhower's failure to sack the lesbian element of the WAC because it was all lesbian!), a moving reunion of elderly patrons of a notorious gay bar, and an inspiringly un-bitter outlook. The talking-heads-with-stills formalt becomes monotonous, and self-congratulation sometimes creeps in.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 17 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Inside History's Closet July 5 2004
By J. Michael Click - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Originally produced for PBS television, the Emmy-winning "Before Stonewall" is a must-see documentary for anyone researching Gay American history. What makes this film so invaluable is its success in recreating - through photographs, film clips, and later-day interviews - a period in time that was carefully and deliberately NOT recorded as it was happening due to the pervasive institution of "the closet", and the very real dangers that faced those brave enough to crack open the door and step out into the light. As one courageous lesbian pioneer remembers, just being accused of being a gay woman was grounds for involuntary commitment to a mental institution during her youth. Small wonder, then, that there is such a paucity of material documenting the gay movement pre-Stonewall, especially during the years from 1900-1950, before the earliest Gay and Lesbian social and political institutions in the United States were founded.
The cornerstone of this remarkable film is the handful of interviews conducted with some elderly activists from the years before the Stonewall riots began on June 27, 1969. With humor, dignity, and matter-of-fact courage, these men and women tell personal stories about their experiences in the armed forces, in the halls of government, in society, and in their home lives during the years in which America at large experienced the roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War, the beginning of the Baby Boom era, and the radical Sixties. Their recollections are not only fascinating and brilliantly told; they are of critical importance in understanding the true heritage and history of today's American gay community. The DVD edition offers some fascinating extra material, including some expanded interviews, and footage of poet Allen Ginsberg reading two of his early compositions. Very highly recommended in terms of both quality and content.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
It Started in the Past... Feb. 13 2005
By James Hiller - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
For many of us, the seeds of the gay liberation movement started on the nights of Stonewall, when a group of people just decided that they weren't going to take it anymore. However, there was gay life before Stonewall, which is documented in this fast paced documentary.

The movie attempts to collapse about forty years of gay history into a documentary of about ninety minutes. With a plethora of interviews, people telling their own stories, it's amazing what it does cover. While the depth of the history may be somewhat lacking, the real impact of the document is an understanding of the roots of where the gay movement came from.

It seems as we enter times of trial and tribulation, it's important to understand our roots. It's those roots, based in the stories that are in this movie, that ground us and help instill a sense a pride in where we've come from, and where we'll be going. With that pride comes strength, strength of will, strength of character. The people who so bravely walked before us, in the 1920's where wearing a red tie with matching hanky was the most obvious sign, to those impressive drag queens who finally decided that enough was enough, are our sources of self-empowerment.

Watch the documentary, buy it, and be ready.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Stunning Riveting Empowering Inspiring Feb. 2 2006
By Stephen G. Shumate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The prior reviews on this movie hit most of the high points. The scene from Eisenhower's office during WWII is amazing - every time I see it I get goosebumps.

This movie does move quickly, but it really takes you from the days of hiding and shame to the revolution of Stonewall and beyond, to end on a note of triumph. It has been a while since I have been to a march, but every time I watch this movie, I am so moved, and proud of those who came before me. I am honored to be the recipient of the rewards of their struggle. I am inspired to live my best life as an openly gay man.

If you have ever felt second best, if you have ever ducked into the closet to make someone else more comfortable, if you have ever been ashamed of who you are as a gay person; this movie is for you.

I personally believe this movie should be required viewing for every gay person.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
M*U*S*T H*A*V*E! June 20 2008
By Alex Honda - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The BEFORE STONEWALL dvd is one of three must have documentaries for all LGBT people (the others being After Stonewall and Paris Is Burning).

Chronicling the time from the roaring 20s to just before the Stonewall riots in 1969, BEFORE STONEWALL takes the viewer on a journey through the struggle that gay men and lesbians have faced as they go from isolation to finding others "like them." The story is told from the mouths of the people who lived through those times like Harry Hay, Barbara Gittings, Audre Lorde, Allen Ginsberg and others, and provides photos, news-clippings, and personal home movies and talks about the importance of underground 'zines that helped gay and lesbians connect with one another.

The doc also shows the beginnings of LGBT groups like "The Mattachine Society" and "Daughters of Billitis" during the late 50s, and features a reunion of workers and patrons of San Francisco gay bar from the 50s "The Black Cat."

BEFORE... came out on PBS in 1985 and "first-run-features" has done an excellent job cleaning up the footage. Of course it doesn't look as though it were done recently, but it's passable. The film runs at about 87-minutes and the special features include: blurry interview with Allen Ginsberg who reads two of his poems; additional interviews with Audre Lorde and Yvonne Flowers; additional footage of The Black Cat bar reunion and interview with Jose Sarria.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Lest We Forget...... Dec 29 2005
By J. Moon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Those of us who remember the closeted years before 1969, where the "love that dare not speak its name" remained silent, recognize the importance of documenting the hardships of gays and lesbians who lived in an era shrouded in secrecy and paranoia. This documentary does an adequate job of providing its viewers a brief glimpse into that era where there were no gay rights. I especially recommend this work to younger viewers who have little knowledge of what gay life was like before the Stonewall riots. In fact, dear reader, if you have never heard of the Stonewall riots, I implore you to purchase and view this documentary immediately!

I consider myself privileged to have personally known, and counted as a dear friend, one of the actors in this work -- George Buse. As stated by the Amazon reviewer, the only objection I have regarding this documentary is that it is too brief and only provides a "snapshot" into the lives of gay and lesbian Americans in times past. I spent many hours listening to George's plethora of anecdotes, and am sorry I never recorded them. When George passed in April of 2000 aged 75, his remarkable personal history, as well as his mental archives of that bygone era were taken with him, save for what he wrote in the Chicago gay press over the years, and his comments in this work. The producers of this documentary could not possibly have chosen a better historian or storyteller. Brief or not, the documentary is a worthwhile purchase. Five honored stars.

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