Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA/Morocco/Switzerland, 2012. Run Rabbit Run Media. Screenplay by Michele Josue. Cinematography by Craig Trudeau. Produced by Michele Josue. Music by Nicholas Jacobson-Larson. Film Editing by Michele Josue, Liam McNiff.
The brutal 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard by two men who targeted him because he was gay became a case that resounded internationally, still referenced so many years later and considered one of the major events to provoke a number of the changes for gay rights that followed its wake. What has easily happened in the years since this terrible event, which also inspired a number of films and plays, countless articles and the activism of Shepard’s own parents, is his becoming a symbol and an icon, allowing people to easily lose touch with the young man at the heart of a storm of observation. Shepard’s friend Michele Josue has attempted to rectify this with her loving tribute film, reminding us of the charming and sweet young man who went looking for acceptance and a sense of belonging before the tragic night when he fell into the path of his murderers. Interviewing friends and family, we find out details of his school and social life that have not always been at the forefront of previous examinations of Shepard’s life, including his years living in Saudi Arabia when his father’s employment took the family there, and his desire to go back to Wyoming for college when he finished high school. Seeing his friends now much older is a reminder of the adulthood Shepard barely got to live, and inspires questions about what he would be like at this age, but Josue does not venture very far beyond the beginnings of her investigation. Once the film covers the known information of his murder, albeit from the more personal vantage point of his parents’ own testimonials, the film becomes incredibly touching yet incredibly familiar: the attempt to make him more than a symbol is not completely successful, though seeing Judy Shepard’s new life as the head of an activist organization is certainly welcome and satisfying. Something more in depth would have made a much deeper impression, but it is still a memorable watch.