Out in the Night with REEL Pride

Film exposes prevailing ignorance to LGBTTQ* rights

Partnered with the women’s and gender studies program at the University of Manitoba, REEL Pride Film Festival presented a free screening of Out in the Night on Oct. 2 with a follow-up discussion facilitated by Liz Millward, associate professor in women’s and gender studies.

Aimed to celebrate queer media arts and contribute to Winnipeg’s queer community by focusing on issues of interest and supporting queer artists and stories, REEL Pride presented the film Out in the Night, hoping to cultivate dialogue on pressing issues within the LGBTTQ* community.

Out in the Night is described as “Orange is the New Black meets real life.”

The film, based on a true story, chronicles four African-American lesbian women enjoying a night out in New York City’s West Village. What begins as a fun night quickly turns sour when the threatening act of street harassment escalates to something more violent and more sexually threatening.

The four women, known as “The New Jersey 4,” are charged with gang assault and attempted murder, sparking a media mania when they plead not guilty on the grounds of self-defence.

Through testimonials and interviews with these women and members of their families, Out in the Night provides an eye-opening commentary on the roles of race, sexuality, gender, and class in the outcome of a trial as well as in the framing of a case.

The women are convicted in the court and in the media as a “gang of killer lesbians,” demonstrating not only the power the media holds in the public’s perception of critical events, but also the extreme bias that still permeates the legal system.

This film gives us a glimpse into the lives at stake when negative stigmas infiltrate everyday occurrences, as well as provides more colour to the grey areas of the nuances and complexities associated with life in the LGBTTQ* community. The result is an incredibly personal story made universal. We are allowed into the lives of these women and are made to see that this is, unfortunately, not a rare incident.

Director Blair Doroshwalther integrates pieces of security footage of the women being physically attacked with portions of the testimony against the women. The result is a telling picture of the legal system corruption and the prejudices that continue to infiltrate societal perceptions of the LGBTTQ* community.

The LGBTTQ* community across the globe continues to experience violence such as murder, assault, rape, and threats. The anti-propaganda law implemented in Russia has resulted in a large increase in the amount of violent attacks against LGBTTQ* individuals and a subsequent lack of police action to prosecute the perpetrators.

Although we have made steps in the direction of equality, it is very clear that this reality is further away than we would like to believe. Cases like “The New Jersey 4” serve as a reminder of the distance we still need to traverse to reach total equality.

This screening is part of a pre-festival warm up; there is much more to come as we delve deeper into October and the film festival gets underway.

For a full schedule of events, visit the REEL Pride website