Our Rating: ★★★★☆
L Factor: Lesbian Film
Short Take: Focuses on the lives of U.S. gays and lesbians prior to the June 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 1984
Duration: 87 min
Language: USA/English
MPAA: Not Rated
Director: John Scagliotti, Greta Schiller
Writer:
Starring: Rita Mae Brown, Ann Bannon, Lisa Ben, Gladys Bentley, George Buse, Carroll Davis, Allen Ginsberg, Barbara Gittings, Barbara Grier, Mabel Hampton, Evelyn Hooker, Jim Kepner, Audre Lorde, Bruce Nugent, Henry Otis, Johnnie Phelps, Ted Rolfs, Chuck Rowland, Donna Smith, Ricky Streiker, Hank Vilas

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Before Stonewall

Focuses on the lives of U.S. gays and lesbians prior to the June 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, through archival footage and interviews. Covers the growth of communities in Greenwich Village and Harlem in the 1920s, especially through the bohemian clubs and speakeasies of the time. It was WWII that exposed many rural gays and lesbians to others in the service or in the cities, where women moved for work and were given an opportunity to leave home and support themselves independently. Many WAC battalions were heavily populated with lesbians.

Then there were the dark days of the McCarthy era, which turned back the clock. Witch hunts of gay people in the government and armed forces were common, and the social and economic pressures to conform and marry were great. In 1955, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were instrumental in forming The Daughters of Bilitis, the first known lesbian organization. (Martin and Lyon were the first of the gay and lesbian couples married in San Francisco in 2004.)

In the 1960s, the burgeoning women’s movement, and in particular NOW, provided a political and social haven for women who were questioning their sexuality. The anti-war movement made for a very volatile anti-establishment mood in the air that contributed to the Stonewall riots, when gays decided to fight back against the cops and their routine harassment. (AB)