50 Years Legal
With special pre-recorded question and answer session with legendary rock manager, author and director Simon Napier-Bell.
MARKING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE STONEWALL RIOTS THAT SPARKED THE BEGINNING OF THE GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT with screenings of 50 YEARS LEGAL & 85
On Saturday 28 June 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The police’s violent treatment of employees and patrons inside the bar triggered a riot that lasted for six days. The Stonewall Riots swept across the world, serving as the catalyst of the LGBTQ rights movement. Fifty years on, and the LGBTQ community and all human rights activists alike, continue to celebrate its legacy.
On June 28 1970, a year after the Stonewall Riots, a march took place on Christopher Street in New York, with similar marches also happening in Los Angeles and Chicago, and they represented the first Gay Pride marches in U.S. history. Within two years, Gay Pride marches were taking place in cities throughout America.
The balance of contributors from different generations also hints at the psychological impact of prejudice, with older contributors finding more joy in early improvements but also talking about the need to laugh at oneself in a way reminiscent of kids in the playground who try to deflect the attention of bullies by voluntarily decrying themselves first. Younger contributors are focused on a different set of struggles and have the energy that's easier to find at that stage in life but also clearly evidence the greater confidence they have inherited as a result of the previous generation's battles. There are exceptions, of course. Peter Tatchell stands out for the consistency of what he has to say about each stage of the struggle. Marc Almond, meanwhile, offers a very personal perspective which puts into context the way that social change could drive personal change at a pace sometimes a bit too intense for individuals - the joy of liberation did not universally make coming out less frightening.
Almond's music is celebrated here also, along with the contributions of artists like Dusty Springfield, David Bowie and, of course, Tom Robinson, whose joyous anthem ‘Glad To Be Gay’ forms the backbone of the film. Napier-Bell situates the film in the context of wider social change, looking, for instance, at the LGBT support for striking miners that would be portrayed on film in Pride. He deals with the impact of the AIDS crisis (the occasion of some particularly painful testimony) and with Margaret Thatcher's exploitation of homophobia and introduction of Clause 28, which latter allows for a reminder that progress never comes with guarantees and hostile measures can be introduced where there were none before. It's an important caution in a film that could too easily have opted for a triumphalist Hollywood ending.
“(T)he film is extraordinarily comprehensive, exploring its subject decade by decade and contextualising each major development with personal stories about the changes that resulted from it… An astute and thorough piece of work, 50 Years Legal is a valuable contribution to LGBT history and to the broader battle against prejudice that is central to how Western Society has evolved in recent decades. It’s informative enough for scholars yet easily accessible to newcomers to the subject - and that it exists at all is testimony to the struggle it depicts.” Jennie Kermode, EyeForFilm