June 28th, 1969, at about 1:00am on Charles Street in New York, history was made at the Stonewall Inn. What began that night were a series of riots, known as the Stonewall Riots, that would serve as one of the single most significant events leading up to the gay liberation movement and the progression of LGBT rights in the United States. It’s why we have Gay Pride Parades all over the world near the end of June, in commemoration.
Roland Emmerich, of Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 fame, has decided to make a film detailing the events of the Stonewall riots, and commemorating its unsung heroes. Unfortunately, rather than affording his audience a history lesson regarding gay rights and activism, he’s created a wafer thin melodrama that never seems to maintain its focus. The film feels like a passive exploration of a serious event, flippantly handling serious subject matter, while pulling its focus away from the unsung, historical figures that were present, towards ill-conceived, fictitious characters who serve no real function.
Roland Emmerich set out to tell the untold stories behind the Stonewall Riots. But what we’re left with is a flippant treatment of these historical events. Frank Kameny, Ed “Skull” Murphy, Deputy Seymour Pine, Marsha P Johnson – these are all significant figures in the riots whose stories are largely unrepresented, and thinly documented. Rather than take this opportunity to talk about the riots through these untold stories, Emmerich leaned on fictitious characters to tell a fictional account of the events of those four days and nights. For whatever reason, he has decided to fabricate the untold stories of Stonewall, instead of showcasing the beautiful tapestry of accounts that still lies in wait for its chance to be heard.
Stonewall will have its World Premiere at Roy Thompson Hall on Friday, September 18th at 9:30pm, with a follow-up screening Saturday, September 19th at 12:30pm at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.