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Trailer: Provocative Doc 'Out In The Night' (4 Gay African American Women & A Tragic Miscarriage Of Justice)

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by Tambay A. Obenson
May 7, 2014 7:26 PM
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An update on a project we first profiled 2 summers ago, when it was one of 10 projects selected to receive completion funds from The Women In Film Foundation's Film Finishing Fund (WIFF FFF), which supports films by, for or about women by providing cash grants of up to $15,000 and in-kind services.

Previously titled The Fire This Time, and now called Out In The Night, and directed by Blair Doroshwalther, the feature documentary, which has been in development since 2009, is now complete and will make its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival, which runs from June 11 to June 19.

Its synopsis reads:

Under the neon lights of the gay-friendly West Village neighborhood of New York City, four young African-American women are attacked by an older man, and then face slanderous media coverage and egregious sentences as they are charged and convicted as a "Lesbian Gang" for defending themselves.

The women came to be known as the New Jersey Four.

Out In The Night tells the story of the women's trial and prison sentences, and the years-long fight by relatives and activists to get them released, revealing how the media, homophobia, and racism all work together to stigmatize and victimize gay people of color.

Thanks to a 2007 report by Colorlines, here's a description of the real-life incident:

On Aug. 16, 2006, seven young, African-American, lesbian-identified friends were walking in the West Village. The Village is a historic center for lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) communities, and is seen as a safe haven for working-class LGBT youth, especially youth of color. As they passed the Independent Film Cinema, 29-year-old Dwayne Buckle, an African-American vendor selling DVDs, sexually propositioned one of the women. They rebuffed his advances and kept walking. “I’ll f— you straight, sweetheart!” Buckle shouted. A video camera from a nearby store shows the women walking away. He followed them, all the while hurling anti-lesbian slurs, grabbing his genitals and making explicitly obscene remarks. The women finally stopped and confronted him. A heated argument ensued. Buckle spat in the face of one of the women and threw his lit cigarette at them, escalating the verbal attack into a physical one. Buckle is seen on the video grabbing and pulling out large patches of hair from one of the young women. When Buckle ended up on top of one of the women, choking her, Johnson pulled a small steak knife out of her purse. She aimed for his arm to stop him from killing her friend. The video captures two men finally running over to help the women and beating Buckle. At some point he was stabbed in the abdomen. The women were already walking away across the street by the time the police arrived. Buckle was hospitalized for five days after surgery for a lacerated liver and stomach. When asked at the hospital, he responded at least twice that men had attacked him. There was no evidence that Johnson’s kitchen knife was the weapon that penetrated his abdomen, nor was there any blood visible on it. In fact, there was never any forensics testing done on her knife. On the night they were arrested, the police told the women that there would be a search by the New York Police Department for the two men—which to date has not happened. After almost a year of trial, four of the seven were convicted in April. Johnson was sentenced to 11 years on June 14. Even with Buckle’s admission and the video footage proving that he instigated this anti-gay attack, the women were relentlessly demonized in the press, had trumped-up felony charges levied against them, and were subsequently given long sentences in order to send a clear resounding message—that self-defense is a crime and no one should dare to fight back.

The 4 women are Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson, Terrain Dandridge, and Venice Brown.

Last spring, the filmmaker raised over $26,000 in completion funds, via Kickstarter - a fundraising campaign that was featured on this blog. 

The documentary will make its world premiere at the LAFF on June 12.

Check out the trailer below:

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