My filmOut In The Night tells the true story of a group of young African-American lesbians who are out one night in 2006, in New York City’s gay-friendly neighborhood of Greenwich Village, when they are sexually confronted by an older man. After they brush off his advances and state that they are gay, the man becomes violent and threatens to “f**k them straight.” He spits and throws a lit cigarette at one of the women, causing a fight to break out. The women are subsequently arrested, charged and convicted with gang assault, assault and attempted murder. Out in the Night reveals how race, gender identity and sexuality are criminalized in the mainstream news media and in the criminal legal system.
Immediately following their arrest, I became interested in the case. I read the many salacious headlines like “Attack of the Killer Lesbians,” “Gal Gang,” “I’m a man, lesbian growled” and on and on. However, it was the first of many New York Times articles that really gave me pause: “Man is stabbed after admiring a stranger.” I was outraged. I didn’t think the journalists from the NYT would have written the article from the harasser’s point of view had the women been white. A man does not ‘admire’ teenage girls on the street at midnight. At best, that is harassment.
Originally, I believed that this was a story that shouldn’t be told by a white director. After two years of advocacy, however, as their appeals were approaching, I couldn’t stop thinking about this story. I was still just as passionate, but the media attention had severely died down. I didn’t want it to be swept under the rug. I wrote to each of the women in prison and asked if I could come visit to discuss the possibility of a documentary. I spoke with their family members to see if they were also interested. From there we began a long interview process, seeing whether we were a good fit. After many months of getting to know each other, we began filming.
Out in the Night has now screened in close to 150 film festivals, winning over a dozen awards, and kicked off the 2015-2016 season of POV on PBS with a simultaneous broadcast on the Logo Network. Out in the Night continues its partnership with the United Nations’ Free and Equal Campaign to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide. According to RogerEbert.com, “This film could help influence the ongoing LGBT civil rights struggle. Everyone should see it.”
Mental Health Month raises awareness about mental illnesses, such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. New Day has a rich collection of films that lift the veil of silence over mental health issues. In Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw, the WNBA’s “female Michael Jordan” battles personal setbacks and stigma to become an outspoken mental health advocate. In Split, children weigh in on the emotional and psychological impact of living through their parents’ divorce. View New Day’s entire collection of mental health films here.
Older Americans Month is a time to celebrate the contributions of older adults to our nation. Several new additions to the New Day catalogue highlight such achievements. In Nine To Ninety, a family’s matriarch boldly leads her family in making difficult end-of-life decisions. In States of Grace, a celebrated doctor recovers from a devastating accident to create a holistic pain clinic. Tracing Roots follows the adventures of a native elder as she strives to find the origins of a curious relic in a retreating glacier. For more New Day films on aging and gerontology, click here.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month honors the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Two new films in the New Day collection shed new perspective on the Asian-American experience. In Top Spin, Chinese-American ping-pong prodigies set their eyes on Olympic gold. In Making Noise in Silence, two high school students must balance being both Korean immigrants and members of the Deaf community. For more titles exploring Asian-American and Pacific Islander life, click here.
In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month this upcoming June, queer New Day filmmaker Nomy Lamm offers up a list of suggestions on how best to approach queer and gender-variant issues in the classroom.
Know our history and embrace our elders. Learning about our
legacy helps us understand who we are. For example, the film Reporter Zerotells the story of Randy Shilts, the first openly gay journalist in the mainstream media, who covered the AIDS crisis when few others would. Before You Know Itoffers a loving portrait of gay elders, their wisdom and at times alienation from the culture they helped create, while Beauty Before Agelooks at the emphasis on youth and beauty in gay male culture. The CampaignandOne Wedding and a Revolutionboth share histories of the battle for gay marriage, and the trailblazers who paved the way.
Don’t forget the “T.” Trans people have been here since the
beginning, yet are often left out of the conversation about LGBT communities. Currently, anti-trans legislation is sweeping the country, making the world that much less safe for those of us whose existence lies outside the binary. Learn more about the lives, perspectives, and unique experiences of trans people in New Day films including Trinidad, Prodigal Sons, and The Family Journey: Raising Gender Nonconforming Children.
Be Intersectional. When we talk about the liberation of LGBTQ
people, we must center the perspectives and experiences of LGBT people of color, queers with disabilities, and those of us who are living at the crossroads of multiple identities, and therefore are most impacted by systems of oppression. Pariah, Sins Invalid, and Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw each tell stories of the often overlapping gifts and struggles of being queer, black, brown, and disabled.
Look beyond the U.S. The layers of identity, experience,
oppression and resilience are mirrored and contrasted when we look beyond the borders of the United States. City of Bordersis set in the only gay bar in the city of Jerusalem, exposing the homophobia faced in a conservative religious city, as well as power dynamics and alliances between Israeli and Palestinian queers. Tales of the Wariahighlights trans women in Indonesia, home of the world’s largest Muslim population, and the pressures of family, religion, money, and aging, as they strive to be true to themselves and find love.
Honor our youth. Queer youth are some of the most vulnerable
and most dynamic members of our community, and they have much to teach us. While homophobia and bullying can isolate our youth and make them believe they have no options, the empowerment of queer youth voices is a balm for our collective spirit. The Year We Thought About Love, Gay Youth, and I’m Just Annekeeach reveal some of the hardships faced by queer youth, including the threat of violence, homelessness, and suicide, as well as the healing that is possible through storytelling, community, art, activism, and belief in oneself.
Bear witness to the violence and discrimination that LGBTQ
people are subjected to. The LGBTQ community has earned hard-won advances and a sense of pride, but often these victories come in the face of devastating loss and violence. Laramie Inside Outwrestles with the legacy of Matthew Shepard’s murder, while Puzzlesteases out contributing factors of a violent hate crime in Massachusetts. Out at Workillustrates what happens when LGBTQ people are not protected from workplace discrimination. Out In The Night shows how interpersonal and institutional homophobia and racism compound each other, when four Black lesbian youth end up serving time in prison and facing assault charges for fighting back against an assailant.
Encourage students to examine their own homophobia. It’s