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March 22, 2015 | posted in Filmmakers
It was a New York Times headline in 2006 that inspired blair dorosh-walther, director
of “Out in the Night.”
The headline read: “Man is stabbed after admiring a stranger.” dorosh-walther, who
identifies as gender non-conforming and uses both male and female pronouns, could not believe it. A man does not ‘admire’ teenage girls on the street at midnight—that is harassment.
dorosh-walther wanted to understand why this man, who had harassed a group of black lesbians walking through New York’s West Village was considered by the mainstream news media a potential suitor, not a threat. The filmmaker questioned why these women were not seen as survivors of homophobic harassment, as well as why the girls were being charged as a gang, even though they had no criminal records.
The media labeled the group of young women “Killer Lesbians,” “Girl Gang,” and “Wolfpack.”
“I believe this story would have unfolded differently had the women and gender non-conforming youth involved been white,” says dorosh-walther. “Race and class, as well as gender and sexuality, were and remain critical issues in this case.”
Four of the women were convicted of gang assault and other crimes and two years after the original arrest dorosh-walther couldn’t stop thinking about their story and wrote to them in prison about making their story a documentary.
“I wasn’t totally sure they knew what a documentary feature would entail. In retrospect, neither did I,” says dorosh-walther. “One time we were chased by a truck of prison Correctional Officers for about a mile or two up the road.”
In making the film, dorosh-walther learned the meaning of resilience and resistance in a completely new way. Two of the women spent a lifetime of surviving everything from police harassment to sexual abuse. The one night that they fought back, they were immediately turned into criminals.
“It really is a demoralizing and indicting commentary on the state of things in our society,” say dorosh-walther. “So I think the thing viewers should take away from this is the women’s ability to be strong resisters while maintaining an unbelievable sense of humor.”
The filmmakers have been in conversations to partner with a number of organizations
including the United Nations’ Free and Equal Campaign that seeks to decriminalize
homosexuality worldwide. These partnerships have yielded results, as the film is slated to screen at 77 sites worldwide.
“I think this film translates to other cultures because women, queer people, people of color, marginalized people know what it is like to be harassed on the streets,” says dorosh-walther. “They know the feeling of not having the protection of the police. It’s a universal theme. Marginalized people do not have the same protections.”
— Lisa Curland
Photo by Elaine Manusakis
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