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Thursday 10 November 2016

Director: Stonewall film honours real activists

Posted in: International News
By Daily News staff - 7th August 2015

The director of upcoming flick Stonewall is promising it "deeply honours the real-life activists who were there".

A still from the upcoming film, Stonewall

Since the trailer for the film was released, there has been swift criticism of its central character being a good looking, white, gay man from the Midwest, who moves to Manhattan and becomes homeless after being kicked out of home because he is gay.

The groundbreaking Stonewall Riot was an all-in protest at the mafia-run New York bar on June 28, 1969, which involved people of a range of sexualities, ethnicities and gender identities, sparked by a police raid.

Rather than usual raids where patrons complied, those in female clothing refused to go with officers to the bathroom to 'verify their sex' and ultimately be arrested, and gay men refused to produce their identification. Police decided to respond with mass arrests.

The patrons were bundled together outside, where things kicked off.

Marsha P Johnson is acknowledged as the first person to throw a brick

Some of the notable people during the action were Marsha P Johnson, an African American trans woman (known at the time as a 'drag queen'), who is acknowledged as the first person to throw a brick, and trans woman Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, who suffered a broken jaw when she was beaten by police and taken to jail.

There was also Storme DeLarverie, an African-American woman known as "the Gay Community's Rosa Parks" who may have been the lesbian who scuffled with police and resisted when they tried to arrest her, twice escaping the patrol car she was placed into, and Sylvia Rivera who was Puerto Rican/Venezuelan and had a fluid gender identity - but was known at that time as a 'drag queen'.

Another important person was Puerto Rican gay man Raymond Castro, whose resistance to arrest is credited with guaranteeing the resistance to the police raid became both massive and violent, along with the actions of the lesbian who fought back.

Riots and revolts ensued, and a year later on the anniversary of the action, the Pride movement was born.

A petition is gaining significant traction calling for a boycott of the film, based on its trailer, saying "it is time that black and brown transwomyn and drag queens are recognised for their efforts in the riots throughout the nation. From the preview alone, we know that will not be happening."

It continues: "Majority of characters casted are white actors, cis men play the role of transwomyn, and folks who began the riots do not seem to be credited with such revolutionary acts."

Director Roland Emmerich says the film "deeply honours" the real-life activists who were there

The film's openly-gay director Roland Emmerich has issued a statement on his Facebook page, saying, "When I first learned about the Stonewall Riots through my work with the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, I was struck that the circumstances that lead to lgbt youth homelessness today are pretty much the same as they were 45 years ago."

He writes: "The courageous actions of everyone who fought against injustice in 1969 inspired me to tell a compelling, fictionalised drama of those days centring on homeless lgbt youth, specifically a young Midwestern gay man who is kicked out of his home for his sexuality and comes to New York, befriending the people who are actively involved in the events leading up to the riots and the riots themselves.

"I understand that following the release of our trailer there have been initial concerns about how this character's involvement is portrayed, but when this film - which is truly a labour of love for me - finally comes to theatres, audiences will see that it deeply honours the real-life activists who were there - including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Ray Castro - and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day. We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance."

Jeremy Irvine, who plays the central character Danny Winters, has released a statement saying the film “represents almost every race and section of society that was so fundamental to one of the most important civil rights movements in living history”.


“Marsha P Johnson is a major part of the movie, and although first-hand accounts of who threw the first brick in the riots vary wildly, it is a fictional black transvestite character played by the very talented @vlad_alexis who pulls out the first brick in the riot scenes,” he says in an Instagram post.

“My character is adopted by a group of street kids whilst sleeping rough in New York. In my opinion, the story is driven by the leader of this gang played by @jonnybeauchamp who gives an extraordinary performance as a Puerto Rican transvestite struggling to survive on the streets.”

He says he felt incredibly nervous taking on the role knowing how important the subject matter is to so many people. “But Roland Emmerich is one of the most sensitive and heartfelt directors I’ve worked with and I hope that, as an ensemble, we have not only done such an important story justice but also made a good movie as well.”

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