Stonewall Uprising: An Important Event, Awkwardly Remembered

In the early-morning hours of Saturday, June 28, 1969, at a dive at 53 Christopher Street in New York City, the homosexual intifada began—an event that remains surprisingly underdocumented. Homo history is bifurcated pre- and post-June ’69, evident in the titles of the documentaries Before Stonewall (1984) and After Stonewall (1999). The value of Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s poorly structured doc is that it focuses on during, assembling minute-by-minute recapitulations of those who were there. Their memories are undeniably powerful, their fury still white-hot 41 years later: “Our goal was to hurt the police. I wanted to kill those cops,” remembers John O’Brien, one man on the front lines. The inclusion of certain talking heads, however, remains highly questionable: For a film that celebrates the courage of the long-marginalized who fought back, who ushered in the whole concept of gay pride, is former New York Mayor Ed Koch really someone you want to talk to? And, tellingly, it’s not the queers, but a cop—Seymour Pine, the 90-year-old retired NYPD morals inspector who led the raid on the Stonewall Inn—who gets the last word.