Film

'Out in the Night': Visibility As Survival Strategy

Out in the Night also argues for visibility, for being out, for claiming an identity and especially, the right to have that identity.

“I was scared.” In August 2006, Renata Hill and six friends were arrested in the West Village. As she remembers it, they were walking outside the IFC Theater when a man accosted and then attacked them, leading to a fight when the women defended themselves. When police officers arrived on the scene, the man claimed the women assaulted him, at which point they were arrested, processed, and sent to Rikers Island, where they were locked in the fearsome BullPen, left to sleep on the floor.

The ordeal was “long, drawn out,” recounts Renata, “It was real scary.” As Patreese Johnson, 19 years old at the time, puts it, “We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.” They couldn’t have known that they were headed into a legal nightmare, that the charges against them would be premised on other people’s fears, that their limited options would be shaped by sensational media coverage.

That coverage and the trials are recalled in Out in the Night, premiering on PBS on 22 June, the first film of POV's new season. Directed by blair dorosh-walter, the film shows how it is, as FIERCE community organizer Glo Ross phrases it, “basically an arrestable offense to be queer, to be of color. You’re guilty just by having an identity.”

Today, following Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Shereese Francis, Tamir Rice, Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, Jordan Davis, Walter Scott, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner, among other black lives and bodies recently assailed, this remains a scary reality. But Out in the Night also argues for visibility, for being out, for claiming an identity and especially, the right to have that identity. If the court case in 2007 denied the right of self-defense to LGBT people of color, exposing that wrong, outing it, is and will be the most effective way to fight back.

See PopMatters' review.

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