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MATT SHEPARD IS A FRIEND OF MINE is a powerful feature documentary about the gay young man who was tortured and murdered in one of the most notorious hate crimes in U.S. history. Directed by Michele Josue, a close childhood friend of Shepard, the film revisits the shocking case with never-before-seen photos, rare video footage and new revelations about Shepard's all-too-brief life.
On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left to die simply because he was gay. The hideous crime stunned and shocked the world, leading to a widespread movement toward greater understanding of and empathy for the gay and lesbian community. Michele Josue's film remembers Shepard through the vivid testimonies of those whose lives he touched, from the friends and family who knew him best to the bartender who saw him on the night of the attack. It is a searing, poignant and multilayered biographical and sociological portrait. In the end, the notion of forgiveness - embodied in the moving and courageous final act of Matt's parents - takes on truly heroic proportions
Josue's film has become a conversation starter among parents, educators and the LGBT community "on how to provide adequate guidance and support for LGBT youths" (Martin Tsai, Los Angeles Times). It has won awards at a range of film festivals, including the Cleveland International Film Festival, Emerge Film Festival in Maine, the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Atlanta's Out on Film and the Toronto Inside Out Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival.
"Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine" tells the story of Matt Shepard, a very special individual whose life was cut way too short because of a senseless act of violence. Directed by Michele Josue who was also a friend of Matt's growing up. I am not going to go through the details again because the synopsis above covers everything you need to know about the story but I do want to talk a little about the film itself instead.
The film does a great job of telling the entire story of Matt's life from when he was born all the way up to the night he was killed. Matt's mom talks about how she knew Matt was gay very early on and his friends talk about the Matt they knew, a sweet, fun and caring young man that had big dreams about changing the world. Little did he know he would indeed change the world but it took his life to do so.
All those in the film that knew Matt loved him and everyone that sees the film will love him too because he was such a special person.
One of the things that struck me was that Matt struggled with whom he was and where his place in the world was. I really felt for him as it was talked about in the film. He seemed to me coming to terms with being gay and for once he seemed happy and then a brutal attack from two young men ended his life before he had the chance to live it. But something good came from it because the media picked up Matt's story world wide and in the end Matt did change the world because his death lead to new hate crime laws.
Some might wonder why it has taken so long to tell Matt's story but it is never too late because even though we have come a long way in accepting others who are different than we are there is still a long way to go so Matt's story will never be over because there is a lot of work to be done. Matt was the kind of person I would have loved to have met and his parents are very special people as well. Both are very courageous and still fight to make a difference. Matt's younger brother was never interviewed in the film but at the end it is mentioned that he works for Matt's foundation.
"Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine" is a tragic story that can still make a difference all these years later. To say that the film made me angry is an understatement but its also a celebration of Matt's all to brief life. I can't really say I enjoyed the film, I mean how can I? But I am glad I got to meet this special young man even if it was through interviews with his friends and family. I hope that the film opens more eyes to the fact that hate crimes still exist today and we all need to let people live their lives and just mind our own business. If everyone did that Matt would still be alive today. Instead there are two families who will never be the same because of one act of senseless violence.
Released by Virgil Films and Entertainment
***** Out Of *****