My film Out 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.”
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