Roland Emmerich is best known for his big budget, world ending, special effects laden extravaganzas such as “Independence Day” and “2012.” So the news that came out last year that he was making a smaller, indie film about the 1969 Stonewall riots raised a few eyebrows. More recently it was revealed that Jeremy Irving of “The War Horse” fame would be taking the lead. Irving will apparently play a “country bumpkin” who gets involved in the late sixties gay scene in New York, helps to start the riot, and thus changes the world.
“Stonewall” is described as “A young man’s political awakening and coming of age during the days and weeks leading up to the Stonewall Riots.” The title of the movie is derived from the name of a gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn which doubled as a kind of unofficial homeless shelter for homeless gay people.
As was the practice of the time, the New York Police Department conducted a raid on the bar on June 28, 1969. Unlike what had been the case up until that time the denizens of Stonewall fought back. It is considered the Lexington/Concord of the gay rights movement, the first time in the United States that gay people did not submit to police harassment.
Some doubt has been expressed that Emmerich, though openly gay himself, is the right person to film this important but overlooked piece of history. Not only has he been better known for blowing up the world in his movies, his more recent work, particularly “White House Down,” have proven to be duds. But the counter argument would be to wait and see if Emmerich can tone down his expansive film style and tell a more intimate though powerful story. We will know more soon either way, according to Emmerich himself via Twitter this May 31st “Today filming began for @Stonewall_Movie…”