This is one of those films that will be incredibly difficult for me to discuss without going off on expletive laden tangents. I'll do my best but I make no promises.
Out In The Night tells the story of the "New Jersey Four" a group of lesbians who were arrested for fighting a straight man. The "New Jersey Four" nickname was clearly a play on the "Central Park Five" case from 1989 and it was appropriate because the media frenzy surrounding both cases were solely based on prejudice and conjecture. You see, when you sell the story as "a gang of scary black lesbians stab a straight man in front of a movie theater" it sells papers, keeps viewers tuned in and in the process destroys the lives of the people involved. If you sell the story in a truthful manor it might just disappear and that would be missing a wonderful opportunity to up your Neilsen numbers and sell some ads. Journalistic integrity be damned when you are in the business upsetting middle class white people. .
Sure these women were from a rough neighborhood but they were in no way gang bangers. The lack of research that goes into stories we see blasted through the 24 hour news cycle is staggering. We've seen this story in one form or another for as long as I can remember. As a bleeding heart lefty I like to imagine that our country has progressed and we live in a more evolved or tolerant society than the one of my fathers generation but I am constantly reminded that is not the case. My father went to a segregated high school so the racism of his day was right up on front street. It wasn't disguised through things like the redistricting of neighborhoods and income inequality. If you look at Ferguson or Michael Brown its clear the media perpetuates the scary black man stereotype and with this case they found a new spin on that familiar story, a scary black gay woman.
The film gives a voice to the "New Jersey Four" and we see a much fuller version of their story. The details of exactly what happened that night are still up for debate but one thing is clear, the version of the events described in the papers was fabricated, lazy and dangerous. I put on this film at 6:30 am today just to check the quality before I headed into the office and I couldn't step away, I had to see how this story would unravel. This is an important film that should be seen by people from all sides of the political spectrum... the kind of film I can't recommend highly enough and one that reminds me of how powerful moving images through light can be.
The PBS documentary series POV will be kicking off its season on June 22nd with Out In The Night.