In August of 2006, a group of African American lesbian women went out for a night on the town in NYC's Greenwich Village area, a well-known historical landmark and haven for the LGBTQ community... or so these women thought. Proud spirits quickly vanished after an instance of homophobic street harassment was initiated by an older man. The threats quickly escalated, resulting in the attempted strangling of two women and then the stabbing of the perpetrator. Although this attack was a glaring moment of self-defense, the media and the law were quick to disagree. The innocent women were arrested, charged with gang assault, and sent to jail for their supposed "crimes."
The story reached headlines, and the only victim to be found was the diseased racist, homophobe. Rather than launching an investigation into why these women were attacked, the story transformed into a series of offensive headlines like, "Attack of the Killer Lesbians" and “Man Is Stabbed in Attack After Admiring a Stranger.” Instead of receiving any sort of in-depth coverage, the four women involved became known to the public as nothing but, "The New Jersey 4"
Filmmaker and activist, Blair Dorosh-Walther, followed the case and became involved after observing how mishandled it really was. After years of hard work, she finally released a documentary entitled, Out in the Night, which accurately recounts and re-contextualizes the story of these victims of violent, homophobic assault.
The way in which the film contextualizes the event not only exposes the blatant mishandling of the case, which was clearly self-defense, but it also sheds light on its frequent reoccurrence, especially in certain communities. The film eloquently expresses how phobic violence and the prison-industrial complex is not just a gender issue, but also a problem affected by race and class. More recent cases like CeCe McDonald's and Marissa Alexander's further reinforce this fact. Rampant racism, homophobia, and transphobia is as prevalent as, if not more than the extortionate amount of innocent victims doing undeserved time. This film is an indispensable work that will hopefully raise awareness for these issues and provoke the kind of activism necessary.
Out in the Night will be featured in this week’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival on Wednesday at IFC (7:30pm), and on Friday at Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater (6:30pm). Reserve a ticket to either showing here.