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Before Stonewall [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Region 1 encoding. (This DVD will not play on most DVD players sold in the UK [Region 2]. This item requires a region specific or multi-region DVD player and compatible TV. More about DVD formats)
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Product details

  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: NR (Not Rated) (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: First Run Features
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001US7TU
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 492,641 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

The archival survey shows homosexual evolution from the 1920s to the 1969 riots at a Greenwich Village gay bar.

Customer Reviews

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Format: DVD
BEFORE STONEWALL covers the period from the 1920s to the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969. Combining archival footage and interviews with key players such as Harry Hay and Allen Ginsberg, this documentary traces the "early formation of a gay community", touching on issues such as the impact of World War II (population mobility, temporary economic independence for women), the McCarthy era, the Mattachine Society, the first periodicals, the rise of the paperback novel, and the connections between the civil rights, feminist and gay liberation movements.

Obviously there's a great deal of material to cover, and BEFORE STONEWALL does a decent job of presenting an overview of the main influences that brought about visibility and the emergence of an identity for gays and lesbians. That said, the documentary is quite localized in time and place, confining itself primarily to key US cities from the 1920s onwards, and largely ignoring the influence of other countries and figures, eg. Magnus Hirschfeld in Germany, and Oscar Wilde and the Uranian poets in the UK, all active from the late-1800s.

The DVD was issued for the 25th anniversary of the original documentary's release, hence inevitably many of the interviews will seem grainy and dated, but of course are no less interesting for that. There is much in the way of 'DVD extras', including a taped poetry reading by the late Allen Ginsberg and a panel discussion (including Ken Livingstone) that took place at the 23rd London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. The latter is particularly instructive, as the makers of the documentary and those from the 'older generation' attempt to field questions about whether the spirit of Stonewall has been betrayed. I suspect that those legends Allen Ginsberg and Harry Hay would have much to say on this question, were they alive to serve witness.
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I previously purchased BEFORE STONEWALL years ago on VHS; this 25th anniversary DVD of the original documentary has added extras, as mentioned in the blurb.

BEFORE STONEWALL only covers U.S. Gay and Lesbian history from about the 1920's to the Stonewall Inn riots of 1969. It is a well-presented archive that informs us of the "coming out" of the U.S. Gay and Lesbian identity and community.

A good buy
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Format: DVD
A well presented collection of archive and new material that informs and reminds us all how a minority group was put on the road to recognition and acceptance. There is still a long way for some members of society to travel.
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The Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, New York City , in June 1969, were undoubtedly a landmark event in the gay and lesbian rights movement. They are a part of history now. But what of the decades before the 60s ? This documentary goes a long way in filling in what was a blank space. Homosexuality simply was not discussed, or was dismissed as a choice, or a neurosis of some kind. People did not want to know. In fact, many people believed that such a thing did not even exist. "Before Stonewall" follows a more or less chronological history, from the the early 1900s onwards. The earliest footage used here is scratched and flickering black & white film, dating from an era of complete ignorance. People who were gay 100 years ago had choices: 1)Get married and pretend everything is fine. 2)Come Out, and risk being classed as mentally ill and sent to an insane asylum. 3)Commit Suicide. Lives were ruined, and there was a huge fear of being found out. Yet people still managed somehow to meet in secret, or even find love. Bohemian areas such as Harlem in NYC attracted homosexuals. Acceptance was a slow process, and only in certain areas. Books such as "The Well of Loneliness" were published, but declared undesirable. During World War 2, gays & lesbians were among the most highly decorated soldiers, but there were cases of blackmail and ruined careers. Gay clubs began to appear, usually hidden and not obvious. Studies such as the Kinsey study in the 50s estimated that there were 20 million gay & lesbian people in the USA at that time. They were not such a tiny minority as previously thought. Paranoia and witch-hunts continued,but there were the stirrings of protest. Support groups such as The Mattachine Society, and The Daughters of Bilitis, were formed.Read more ›
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Stonewall - the New York City bar where the "gay riots" kicked off. Not a real riot but a massive protest against the NYPD and others harassment of gays going about their everyday lives. The start of a movement for gay liberation it eventually led to much great equality of treatment by local police and city officials. The dvd tells of how gay men and women had to live and hide Before Stonewall.
Younger gay men should see the dvd and learn of the fight for their liberties! Older ones may like the pictorial record of earlier difficult times.
And the bar is still there. Visited in 2008. Now you should go, and think about what happened there!!
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