Film Review of Out in the Night

For the film review, I decided to go and see the movie/documentary, Out in the Night at the Reelout film festival. Out in the night is a thought provoking film that uses intersectional themes of gender and race to portray a tragic story of four, young, African-American Lesbian women who are wrongfully forced in to years behind bars due to a violent interaction with a homophobic African-American Male. The director Blair Doroshwaltherv does a great job of telling the story through the eyes of the four women, commonly known as the New Jersey Four, by using their experiences in and out of prison to showcase the wrong doing of the justice system as well as the greater issues of racial subtexts in sexualization.

During a visit to a popular neighborhood known for LGBTQ pride called West Village, in New York City, what started as a casual trip, suddenly turned violent. The group of seven women began to confront a man who, for no reason what so ever, began to verbally assault the group with homophobic and heterosexist slurs. Unfortunately, the conflict then turned violent when in self-defense, one of the women named Patreese, stabbed the man with a blade that was similar in size to a steak knife. After the conflict, the seven women were taken into custody, while a crime investigation and trial followed when the man placed charges on the group of women. As the media seem to always do, they blew the story way out of proportion with terrifying headlines that were both condescending and damaging to the LGBTQ community in New York City. What the media failed to portray was that what happened on that night was a similar form of gay bashing as the male began to attack the group for not doing what he was telling them to do. Vivid images were displayed throughout the film of choking and other violent movements towards the women done by the male providing a clear cut argument for the women involved to be not guilty for reacting in the way they did.

In terms the subject matter that we study in Genders 125, Out in the Night is a perfect example of oppression towards gender and races because this situation was not just defined by the fact that it was a group of lesbian women who were involved in the conflict, but also because all the women involved were African-American. One little phrase that stuck with me was when one of the women’s mother was talking about how these women already being African-American from an impoverished community in Newark, New Jersey then, had the audacity to be openly lesbian. Showing that living in a community that was already disadvantaged, made it seem that being homosexual shut even more opportunities down for these women.

There were a few brilliant scenes showing the racialization that these girls experience both in their daily lives and after the incident. One scene that really stuck with me was near end when Patreese’s mother was interviewed about her thoughts on what life was like living in their neighborhood. After talking about the poverty that has existed in her area for many years, she then began to show the bullet holes on the front of her house. Even more gut wrenching was the fact that it was not a one-time occurrence, with a separate shooting ending in the death of her son. Patreese was given excessive jail time due to her action in self-defense of what was then shown by the defense lawyer to be a very small stab wound. Patreese’s excessive jail time and the unfortunate death of her brother can be linked to the larger issue of White Privilege that is still very prevalent in the US today. To show this the director then showed a clip from an LGBTQ activist who was trying to get lobby for the release of the New Jersey four. She talked about how it is interesting to think what would have happened if the women involved in this situation were all white and the attacker was still African-American. For me that summed up the major White Privilege theme in this movie as it is hard to see this case being dealt with the same way if the group of women in the conflict were White.

Overall I had a very enjoyable experience at the Reelout festival. Although I didn’t really know what I was getting into at first, I thought the Screening Room set up a great atmosphere for the festival! I’m used to having to go out in the middle of nowhere to see films in Kingston so it was nice to find out about a more interesting place to watch new films. I highly recommend getting to the Reelout Festival next year, especially with the wide range of films that they are starting to include.

– 12sdt

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4 thoughts on “Film Review of Out in the Night

  1. I saw the same film at the festival, and many of the same themes and messages that you’ve pointed out also stood out for me. I completely agree with your comments that the film is a clear depiction of intersectionality and the compounding effects for these women of being lesbian as well as African American. It’s a direct connection and exemplification of this course’s central components, as the way in which the situation was interpreted and disseminated through popular media outlets followed hegemonic discourses of stereotypical depictions of the women being a ‘vicious gang’.

    I think that the film was effective in connecting and portraying this devastating, yet unfortunately pervasive experiences through the stories of these women. I’m not sure about you, but the ending definitely left me feeling like there was something more that needed to be done for these women who lost so many year behind bars and away from their family and friends. Difficult knowing that just for being themselves that this occurred and that the justice system ultimately failed them.

    Thanks for sharing!
    – kt22

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  2. Good job at addressing both race and gender in reference to the film as well as issues that are prevalent in the real world in relation to these characteristics. Your film review and analysis made the movie sound very intriguing and left me wanting to watch the movie for myself in order to discover what else happens. I liked how you not only discussed the movie and used the terms but how you incorporated how you felt it related specifically to topics from class as well as referencing how there were certain things that really stuck out to you. Well done!

    -mp.

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  3. It’s definitely scary that such a gross injustice could occur as recently as 2006. I love that you talked about the activist who asks people to speculate on what would have happened if the women were white. I wonder if the label of “gang” would have even been applied by the media if the women were not all Black. The stereotypes that were disseminated and furthered by the media clearly demonstrated the negative racialization that these women endured.

    The fact that the attack even occurred and that the man felt that he had the right to provoke a verbal (and physical) attack on these women for proudly owning their identities illustrates that these hegemonic interactions occur even in areas where these women felt safe to be themselves.

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  4. I really enjoyed how your film review not only focused on what was displayed in the film but also took a step back and looked at the bigger picture at hand being white privilege. In one of our readings, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, there was a quote that said “I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group”. I feel as though this quote portrays very concisely how the New Jersey Four were treated by the justice system. As discussed in this review Patreese is given excessive jail time that is claimed to be because of her singular act of violence and only that. But Patreese being a lesbian African-American this “invisible system” comes in to play and her minority characteristics sentence her more so than the crime itself.

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