a moving account of the horrific murder of Matthew Shepard
THE LARAMIE PROJECT is in essence a film version of the play of the same name, as told through the words of the Tectonic Theater Project group who traveled to Laramie, Wyoming to interview the townsfolk and specifically document their reactions to the horrific murder of Matthew Shepard in the days / weeks thereafter.
Yet in covering the same story but from a different angle as the moving telemovie The Matthew Shepard Story the result remains the same, namely a powerful work that details the heartfelt reactions to an inhuman act that not only shocked the good folk of Laramie, but literally the whole of America. It is a story that had to be told, being in effect an alarming wake up call to the fact that homosexual prejudice, often fueled by the religious rhetoric of the far right, still exists to this day.
Sadly shortly after midnight on the 7th October 1998, twenty-one-year-old student Matthew Shepard became an innocent victim of such hatred, having been robbed, beaten, pistol-whipped and left for dead bound to a split-rail fence, in a remote area east of Laramie. He would never regain consciousness, having been found by chance some eighteen hours later and inspite of the best efforts by one and all, would come to die in hospital on the 12th October 1998.
Consequently this film, like the play, places the issue of hate crime directly on trial and yet to cite Laramie as 'the hate capital of America' is deeply offensive to its largely law-abiding and non-judgmental citizens. And yet it was the fact that two of their own carried out such a brutal attack, that shamed the community itself. But then the
whole of America was shamed by one of the darkest acts of homophobia in recent times, namely how a young man was savagely beaten and left for dead, solely on account of his sexuality. That his assailants, one Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, were duly convicted with Henderson sentenced to two consecutive life sentences and McKinney the same but without the possibility of parole, for many fell short of their view of a life for a life. Then again, Henderson in pleading guilty had agreed to testify against McKinney to avoid the death penalty, with Matthew's parents having brokered a deal that would come to save the life of a man, who in their own words had "refused to show any mercy" to their son.
In paying testimony to the events that took place on that dark October night, Kaufman through a series of enacted interviews in chronological order, coupled with excerpts from news reports, political commentary and trial transcripts has once again shone the cinematic spotlight on the violent reality of sexual prejudice, in a work that includes a series of major players only too happy to give their time and support to this project. Only let it be hoped that good will come out of evil and that such a heinous crime never occurs again.
Matthew Shepard | 1976 - 1998 | a fine life brutally cut short.
available on DVD as part of the Vision Video / Universal catalogue
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