Tag Archives: gay film

Stonewall Gets Terrible Reviews, Bombs at the Box Office

Based on the Stonewall riots of 1969, an event which is regarded as the birth of the modern LGBT rights movement, Stonewall stars Jeremy Irvine as fictional gay white man Danny Winters. In director Roland Emmerich’s take on the historic events, Danny threw the first brick of the riots and was a leading and important figure in the protests.

Backlash to the film has been widespread, from were actually at the Stonewall riots as well as members of the LGBT community who feel that the film does not, in any way, accurately portray the real events.

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Many of the leaders in the riots, which saw police clash with patrons of New York’s Stonewall Inn bar, were trans women and trans women of colour such as Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, while a black butch lesbian, Stormé DeLarverie, was the first person at the riots to throw a punch.

However, Emmerich’s Stonewall only features Marsha P. Johnson (played by a cis man, no less), making no mention of the others, despite Emmerich’s comments that the movie “honors” Rivera and the rest of the real-life activists who were there.

As a result, many critics have panned the film, calling it an abominable bungling of what happened, and that, even as a dramatised retelling of the events, it just doesn’t hold up.

Over on The Heights, Hannah McLaughlin says that the film “couldn’t be more whitewashed than if it was doused in Clorox Bleach and thrown into the laundry three times over”. Meanwhile, Andrew O’Hehir at Salon compares the film to “saying that Rosa Parks was a tired lady who decided she’d rather rest her feet” and says that “the process of forgetting “Stonewall” begins now, and the erasure will be total”.

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Meanwhile, Richard Lawson at Vanity Fair calls Stonewall a “disaster movie” and that it’s “perhaps even worse than some feared it would be—more offensive, more white-washed, even more hackishly made”, and “it’s so bad that it’s hard to know where to begin a catalogue of the film’s sins”, says the writer.

These are just excerpts from a handful of absolutely abysmal reviews, but the majority of reviews about the film have called it atrocious in some way, shape or form. Movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has Stonewall at just 10% (which is essentially a rating of 1 out of 10), indicating that this one is well and truly rotten.

And though Roland Emmerich has responded to the criticisms of his film, the director seems to suggest that those who watched the film just didn’t seem to ‘get it’. In an interview with Buzzfeed, the director explains that

I didn’t make this movie only for gay people, I made it also for straight people. I kind of found out, in the testing process, that actually, for straight people, [Danny] is a very easy in. Danny’s very straight-acting. He gets mistreated because of that. [Straight audiences] can feel for him”.

People having responded negatively to this too, saying that a film about LGBT history, that features LGBT people shouldn’t have to ‘pander’ to straight viewers and that if that’s what straight viewers need to sympathised with an oppressed group of people, then that’s their problem, not ours. However, Emmerich has also said that once people see the film, they’ll feel positively about it.

Unfortunately, it seems that few people are interested in seeing Stonewall as, in what many would call a ‘karmic balance’, the film has utterly tanked at the box office. It cost over $15 million to make but it raked in just $112,414 during its opening weekend and with 129 theatres showing it, that’s an average of $871 and 107 people per theatre.

Stonewall’s box office embarrassment and the backlash, while it has led to people (both LGBT and cis/straight) researching what actually happened during the riots, has raised questions about the future of LGBTQ+ focused films. Does this mean that fewer Hollywood companies will be willing to make them due to a perceived risk?

Or does it just mean that filmmakers will take the time to consider what the community wants, rather than catering to the (already well catered to) needs of straight, cisgendered moviegoers? For now, the answers are unclear but we’ll be quick to update you on all of the silver screen’s relevant goings on.

Why Are The ‘Stonewall’ Movie Makers Trying to Rewrite Our Queer History?

Things have never been completely easy for LGBTQ people in society, but this was especially clear during the 1960s.

During this time, it was custom for gay/LGBT-friendly bars in the United States to be raided by the police and in the summer of 1969, iconic New York bar The Stonewall Inn was such a target.

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Unlike the usual raid process, in which women would be taken to the bathroom so that a police officer could determine their sex (with trans women being arrested) and men having to produce their ids. Many trans women refused to be checked and men refused to hand over their ids, and so the police planned to take many of them to the police station.

However, with transport having not yet arrived and with those who hadn’t been arrested staying, a crowd began to grow outside of the bar.

As tensions rose between Stonewall Inn patrons, LGBTQ bystanders and the police, violence soon ensued, with LGBTQ folk being assaulted and verbally abused and with bricks, bottles and more being thrown.

With chanting and singing, the events soon erupted into a full on riot and in all, there were three days of further rioting and protests as LGBTQ people were fed up of being mistreated by both the police and the mafia (who ran The Stonewall Inn at the time). The Stonewall Riots were also the basis for the gay pride events that we know today.

It’s these events that filmmaker Roland Emmerich aimed to capture in his upcoming movie Stonewall.

The film follows a character named Danny Winters (a white, cisgendered, gay man) and his involvements in the riots. But Danny is fictional; the character doesn’t exist and Emmerich created him for the sake of the movie, something that doesn’t sit right with many of the people who were both there and have also learnt about the original events.

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Emmerich explained to Vulture that he created Danny as “if you can cast a central character with one or two famous actors, you have a good chance to get the movie financed” but the Stonewall riots didn’t have a central character (according to the filmmaker).

Many have disagreed with this statement, point out that there were key figures in the events, particularly trans women of colour such as Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, who are regarded of leaders of the event. And there’s also butch lesbian Stormé DeLarverie who is believed to have thrown the very first punch of the riots.

The frustration comes not just from the fact that a white gay man is taking centre stage, as often happens in LGBTQ-themed media, but it’s that the film is just historically inaccurate.

In a statement, Emmerich says that when Stonewall is released, “audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there — including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Ray Castro”, but the filmmaker clearly fails to realise that Sylvia Rivera isn’t even portrayed in the film at all.

Those in favour of the film are keen to note that the film is highly dramatised and isn’t meant to be historically accurate, but one big question is: then why did Emmerich decide to use the Stonewall riots as a foundations for the movie? Why even call it ‘Stonewall’ if it didn’t try and stay true to what actually happened?

Others have criticised the backlash to the movie as people being unfair to white, cis, gay men, but given that trans women of colour are the most common target of anti-LGBTQ violence, are often left out of the LGBTQ rights conversation and are also massively underrepresented in the media, you can understand why people are furious why they’re being written out of their own history too.

New Film About Stonewall Riots to Get a September Release

We are very excited to hear director Roland Emmerich’s film about the 1969 Stonewall riots, is set to open in US theatres on 25 September.

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Emmerich who also produced the movie, said in a statement

I was always interested and passionate about telling this important story, but I feel it has never been more timely than right now.”

Emmerich, also points out that less than 50 years ago being gay was considered a mental illness, gay people could not be employed by the government, it was illegal for gay people to congregate and police brutality against gays went unchecked.

Today, thanks to the events set in motion by the Stonewall riots, the gay rights movement continues to make incredible strides towards equality. In the past several weeks alone, the Boy Scouts of America has moved to lift its ban on gay leaders, the Pentagon will allow transgender people to serve openly in the military, and SCOTUS has declared that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide in all 50 states.”

Emmerich points to the Stonewall riots as ‘the first time gay people said “Enough!”‘

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Something that really affected me when I read about Stonewall was that when the riot police showed up in their long line, these kids formed their own long line and sang a raunchy song. That, for me, was a gay riot, a gay rebellion. … It was the kids that went to this club that consisted of hustlers and Scare Queens, and all kinds of people that you think would never resist the police, and they did it.”

The film – written by openly gay writer Jon Robin Baitz, and stars Jeremy Irvine and newcomer Jonny Beauchamp – focuses on fictional young man who is kicked out of his parent’s home for being gay.

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The man flees to New York, where he befriends a group of street kids in Greenwich Village who soon introduce him to the local watering hole The Stonewall Inn.

He and his friends experience discrimination and are repeatedly harassed by the police and a rage begins to build until it erupts in a storm of anger.

The film was shot in and around Montreal with an elaborate set recreating the interior and exterior of the Stonewall Inn and the entire Christopher Street neighbourhood.

Our Pick of Lesbian Film Classics

Stranger Inside (2001)

Not many mainstream movies produced by HBO and Michael Stipe give you the lowdown on lesbianism in female prisons in the US. Stranger Inside follows the journey of an imprisoned African-American woman who is looking for her real mother.

Do I Love You? (2002)

When it first came out Do I Love You? was the first British lesbian feature to be made for a decade. Lisa Gornick’s ‘thesis on love and labels’ was widely-loved and enjoyed by audiences all over the globe. Marina is around thirty and very confused about life and love – her story is told eloquently and incisively by this unique movie.

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Some critics wondered whether this mainstream movie with bankable A-list stars signalled that Hollywood was about to embrace lesbianism fully. Things didn’t exactly turn out like that, but the film certainly made waves. Many loved it but others – both homosexual and homophobic – had criticisms about its portrayal of LGBT characters.

Tomboy (2011)

This classic of French dyke cinema was the brainchild of Celine Sciamma who also directed the successful Water Lillies (2007). The protagonist is 10 year old Laure, who wants to be Mikael. (S)he tries to come to terms with the feeling that she is a boy trapped inside the body of a girl, facing off prejudice and misunderstanding all the way.

Break My Fall (2011)

Part of the British new wave of realist queer cinema, Break My Fall is a painfully honest account of the complexities of an intense Sapphic relationship in contemporary East London. It was shot on 16mm by the Bafta-nominated auteur Kanchi Wichmann.