Out in the Night (2014)
Cast: Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson
Director: Blair Doroshwalther
Out in the Night is an attention-grabbing documentary that follows four African-American lesbian women whose lives changed after being arrested for assaulting a man who was sexually and physically harassing them on the streets of New York City. Though this was an act of self-defense, the judge failed to examine the evidence that proved them innocent and sentenced them to jail. The movie follows their struggle to cope with the fact that they are going to jail even though they only acted in self-defense.
Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson and their three friends were out in New York’s West Village looking for a place to let loose and have fun. They walked by an African-American man who was attracted to Renata. When she told the man that she was a lesbian, he began following them and yelling threats, especially heterosexist remarks by yelling things such as “I’ll f*** you straight.” He then charged at them. Being from the dangerous streets of Newark, New Jersey, they begin fighting back. Renata then pulled out a knife and stabs him in the abdomen. The police were contacted and arrested the women for “gang assault”. The other three pleaded guilty in order to have their sentences lowered but Renata, Venice, Terrain and Patreese believed that they were innocent and felt that they would be released. That was not the case.
Doroshwalther does an amazing job portraying homophobia and sexism that was shown to these women, especially when they were sent to court. When portraying what happened during the prosecution, she shows the audience the evidence that would prove them innocent, but the judge, a white man, and the jury, also white, saw otherwise leading to all four of them going to jail for almost a decade. The trial was an example of hegemony due to the lack of people of colour during the trial. The only people who weren’t white during the trial were the four women and their family members. The media took the story and turned it into propaganda against them by calling them a “lesbian wolf pack” or “killer lesbians” or even “gang violence. Victoria Law (2014) states that the intersection of their race and gender led to the conclusion that since they were a group of black women, they were part of a gang. They racialized these women by coming to these conclusions, which led to them acquiring longer sentences. After many years in prison, further evidence was provided and they were released from prison, Renata serving the longest sentence.
One scene that stood out the most while viewing the film is when all of the evidence is shown to the audience, especially a picture that shows the man’s body after surgery. In the picture, you can see a large scar that was sutured and a small abrasion. The small abrasion was the knife wound while the large scar was from a stomach ulcer that was found while examining his body. With evidence that clear, it was thought that they would be released but when the lawyer pointed it out to the judge, he responded by saying that he already knew that the larger abrasion was from a previous operation that had nothing to do with the knife wound (Law). This disgusted me beyond belief because this is another example of hegemony where the white judge who has all the power ignored true evidence and still allowed the women to go to jail. This man sickened me and made me wonder how he continued to be allowed to work as a judge.
I personally enjoyed attending Reelout Festival because it opened the doors to a newer type of cinema. If I had not attended the festival, I would have never heard of the discrimination that these women faced. I believe that this movie was a perfect choice for the festival because it portrays how people today are still being discriminated and how there are still people with power who still believe that they have some sort of supremacy over others. I believe that the organizers of Reelout chose this film for that exact reason. I would have never encountered this film on my own without the festival. I would attend this festival again and strongly recommend both the festival and the film to others.
LA Film Festival (2014) – Out in the Night Trailer – Lesbian Documentary HD. Perf. Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson. 2014. Film.
Law, Victoria. “New Documentary “Out in the Night” Asks: Who Has the Right to Self Defense?” Bitch Media. 11 June 2014. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://bitchmagazine.org/post/out-in-the-night-challenges-viewers-to-consider-who-has-the-right-to-self-defense>.
Out in the Night. 2014.
Out in the Night – Slide 0. 2014.