SXSW world premiere documentary: Filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman explore State of Gay Pride
LGBTQ advocate Raymond Braun serves as guide in the film, attending Pride festivals as 50th anniversary of Stonewall nears
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village, rebelled against a police raid--the kind of institutionalized harassment against gay and trans people that used to be the norm in American cities. That act of defiance--LGBT people refusing to knuckle under and keep to the shadows of society--ignited a movement that would profoundly alter American life.
Gay Pride festivals that sprang up around the United States after the Stonewall Riots pay homage to that foundational moment, serving simultaneously as an expression of self-acceptance and a collective will to be seen and heard.
But what is the state of pride in 2019 when so many gains have been made by the LGBTQ community, most astonishingly the constitutional right to marry? Have Pride festivals lost their sense of purpose and urgency in a time of greater societal acceptance of gay people? A new documentary, aptly titled State of Pride, asks those questions on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.
"What was interesting to us was what different meaning Pride takes on depending where you are. In San Francisco and New York [Gay Pride] has just become a civic--like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," notes Jeffrey Friedman, who directed the film with Rob Epstein. "But when you go to a smaller town like Tuscaloosa [Alabama], or a very religious town like Salt Lake City, it just takes on a different meaning and it's just more meaningful."
State of Pride held its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival on Friday night. The directors were in attendance, along with Raymond Braun, a prominent advocate for the LGBTQ community who plays a major role in the documentary. He acts as a guide for the audience, taking us to Pride festivals in the aforementioned Tuscaloosa, SLC and San Francisco.
"I think that you get from each of the stories in each of the cities a different perspective on why Pride is still important," Braun tells Nonfictionfilm.com. "I am definitely someone who is a proponent of everyone attending Pride and making a judgment after you've attended it. But we wanted to try to include the kaleidoscope of perspectives that you find in the LGBT community regarding Pride."
Epstein, the Oscar-winning director of The Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt, says the filmmakers kept an open mind about the state of Pride.
"We didn't go into the project with any agenda or preconceptions," he affirms. "It was really more of an exploration, and Raymond was our guide into the exploration. But we certainly wanted to bring forth the antecedent of Pride, the fact that the roots of Pride started as a protest march, on the heels of Stonewall. A lot of younger people don't know that. So we feel like it was important to really situate Pride in the context of that history."
State of Pride will be released on YouTube Originals this spring, before the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. Click on the video below to hear from Epstein, Friedman and Braun.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.