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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

Product Description

Amazon.ca

Before Stonewall is a documentary about evolution, namely the evolution of gay culture in the U.S. from the early 1920s to the Stonewall riot of 1969. Embellished with archival footage and photography from five decades, the film most prominently features the gay underground of the '20s and '30s, the rise of gay service in the military and workforce during WWII, the persecution of gays as "subversives" and "sexual perverts" in the state department by Senator McCarthy, the growth of the first grassroots political organizations for gay men and lesbians in the '50s, and of course, the civil rights movement. Commentary is provided by the gay men and lesbians who came of age in the years leading up to Stonewall.

Overall, Before Stonewall does an admirable job of illustrating the rise of American gay culture and pinpointing the various social and political issues that were most instrumental. Perhaps the film's only weakness lies in the vast ground it tries to cover in such a short amount of time, leaving certain themes without much in-depth coverage. However, as a snapshot of the years leading up to Stonewall, it succeeds remarkably well. --Katy Ankenman


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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: 19 reviews
17 of 17 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.
13 of 13 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.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining but Largely Irrelevant and Inaccurate Portrait of the Pre-1960s Gay Community April 29 2011
By Gary F. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
It is sometimes necessary to explain what Stonewall was. In 1960s New York, it was illegal to be homosexual, and gays and lesbian bars were generally mob controlled venues that made pay offs to the police in order to stay open. Located in the gay enclave of Greenwich Village, Stonewall was a seedy bar where watered-down drinks were the norm and the owners didn't much care if you liked it or not: you took it or left it. From time to time the police came around; most of the time they were looking for a pay off, but sometimes they had instructions to crack down on vice. And that is what happened on 27 June 1969, with police officers arresting bar patrons. But on this occasion tempers flared. The bar patrons had had enough and they fought back. The battle spilled into the street, the police took cover inside the bar, and the gays and lesbians tried to burn it down with the police inside. The Stonewall Riots continued on and off for several days, shutting down a big chunk of New York in the process. Today the riots are seen as the turning point in the struggle for gay and lesbian equality.

Well, maybe. The trouble with people who live in New York and Los Angeles and other major urban areas is that they usually discount everybody else, and the stories presented by BEFORE STONEWALL are very much those of gays and lesbians living in major urban areas and struggling against the odds to reach some sort of happy ending. (The only arrest footage in the film shows the drag queens waving happily for the camera.) The film doesn't have much to say about the really bad things that happened, the murders and the deaths, the forced shocked treatments, those who lived in terror in small town hells from one end of the country to another. What emerges is a highly sanitized portrait of the American 20th Century gay and lesbian movement that seems calculated to please liberal heterosexuals instead of inform about the triumphs and failures of the pre-1960s movement. As for Stonewall being a turning point, no doubt it was--in New York. Truth is, it didn't actually receive much coverage at the time. I'd say the national turning point came a decade later when Anita Bryant discovered gays and lesbians had enough leverage to have her fired as spokeswoman for Florida orange juice and when Harvey Milk showed that gays and lesbians could actually be elected to public office.

That said, BEFORE STONEWALL is a nice little feel-good documentary with the occasional glimpse of an interesting interview, such as Harry Hay, who was both adored and reviled (typically of this film, you don't get any of the latter), Martin Duberman (who starts to talk about how he sought a "cure" but never really goes anywhere with the story), and a reunion of those who frequented a bar called The Black Cat (and they, at least, are genuinely fun.) When all is said and done, BEFORE STONEWALL is upbeat, peppy, and tries to make you feel that the bad old days probably weren't quite so bad after all. Recommended, but keep your salt shaker hander, because you'll need to watch it with more than few grains of salt.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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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