Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine – Opening Night Reception and Film Review
Pre-Screening/Post Screening Reception
The pre-screening of the Toronto premier of the documentary film “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” took place last night at the Carlton Cinema and was attended by a bevy of Toronto LGBTQ community and allies, along with the film director Michele Josue, and the parents of Matthew Shepard.
I can’t express enough what a heartfelt moment and an honour to meet such a wonderful mom and dad, Judy and Dennis Shepard, whom I followed their work for such a long time, and whom in the face of a horrifying tragedy became a voice for fighting homophobia.
The audience moved to the Marquee of Granby after the screening for a reception and a conversation with the filmmaker and the Shepard’s was facilitated by journalist Adam Nayman from the Globe and Mail. When Adam asked Michele why she decided make the documentary now after all these years, Michele’s reply was simply, “Only in recent years have I been able to talk about him without crying, I felt I finally that I have the courage to tell the story.”
Judy Shepard agrees that Michele was the right person to make this documentary, and commented, “I felt all along Michele will one day tell the story from his friends point of view, and she did a great job telling the story chronologically.”
The reception attendees all agreed, this story should never be forgotten.
The Film Review
I had a preview for the documentary movie to watch for a while in order to prepare for the premier, and the subsequent interview with Michele Josue and Shepard’s parents Judy and Dennis which will be featured in the April edition of theBUZZ, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it on my own. I knew it was going to be difficult, so I figured I would wait until the night of the premier to watch it with an audience, and hopefully draw comfort from a bigger crowd.
We all know the story, at least the short of it. In October 1998, the vicious murder of 21 year old gay university student Matthew Shepard at the hands of two homophobic peers, shocked the world and became a rallying cry against homophobic violence and anti-gay persecution.
The director of the film is Michele Josue, who was a childhood friend of Matthew Shepard. Michele is incredibly skilled at making us feel part of the events, as if we lived this nightmare along with Matthew’s family and friends, but as if we also were “a friend” of Matt. It does make sense we felt this way by the end credits, because this is not a film, this is a diary of someone talking about a friend whom they loved, lost tragically, and still miss.
The documentary starts with Michele introducing herself to us and her relationship to Matthew, then she goes on to talk about the horrific murder, and her wish to tell the story so we can all get to really know her friend Matt, because as she says “if the world knows our Matt, the real Matt, I know it won’t be able to let him go either.”
We get to hear from Matt’s friends, town folks, and people who were involved or got touched by what took place. It is raw, it is real, and it is heart wrenching, but it is also a look at the story of a wonderful human being. We got to know Matthew a little closer watching this documentary. We got to know a child, a teen, and young man, who was smart , had hopes, was a dreamer, had doubts, had his own demons, but had a life ahead of him, and I can’t help but wonder what great things he would have done had he still been with us . Matt was senselessly killed for just being who he was, but whose story can inspire many others to not allow this to continue happening.
I thought I knew Matthew Shepard from the media, seeing the Laramie Project, reading about him, following the story when it happened, and the work of his parents Judy and Dennis, but I didn’t. I feel like I know Matthew after watching this film, and I feel like I miss him too.
You should see this film!
Ian McDonald – community man and activist: I thought it was incredible. It’s an opportunity to get to know Matthew Shepard through his friends. It’s a beautiful moving film, and it’s wonderful that the parents allowed us access to parts of the story we would have never known.
Kate Johnston – film maker Tru Love: I remember the day he died, so for me as a lesbian, I was very much impacted at the time. I have to say the movie is more moving and more powerful than I would have ever imagined, it is so emotional there are no words for it. The cinematography also was beautiful.
Harry Singh – owner Zipperz/Cellblock: I never knew all the details of the story before, I don’t know where the parents got the courage to go on and deal with all of this. It’s a must see film.
Kristien Michael – It was very moving. The story is heartbreaking yet inspiring. It is a very important movie to see.
Now playing at the Carlton Cinema (Toronto), and opening soon in Edmonton, Saskatoon, and more cities to follow.
About the Author
Antoine Elhashem is the owner of Inspired Media Inc (www.inspiredmediainc.com) Publisher of: theBUZZ (www.thebuzzmag.ca) PinkPlayMags (www.pinkplaymags.com) Pink Pages Directory (www.thepinkpagesdirectory.com) Local Biz (www.thelocalbizmagazine.ca)