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Laramie Inside Out 2004

Highly Recommended

Distributed by New Day Films, 190 Route 17M, P.O. Box 1084, Harriman, NY 10926; 888-367-9154 or 845-774-7051
Produced by Beverly Seckinger
Directed by Beverly Seckinger
DVD, color, 56 min.

College - Adult
Gay and Lesbian Studies, Gender Studies, Human Rights, Hate Crimes

Date Entered: 09/26/2005

Reviewed by LaRoi Lawton, Library & Learning Resources Department, Bronx Community College of the City University of New York

Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard met Aaron James McKinney and Russell Arthur Henderson in a bar. After he confided to them that he was gay, they deceived him into leaving with them in their car. He was robbed, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. Shepard was discovered 18 hours later, alive and unconscious. Shepard suffered from a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He also had catastrophic brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heartbeat, body temperature, and other vital signs. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate. Shepard never regained consciousness and remained on full life support. He died at 12:53 a.m. on October 12 at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The blood on Shepard's face had been partly washed away by tears, indicating that he had been conscious for some time after the beating. He had been pistol-whipped 18 times with a .357-caliber revolver. Police arrested McKinney and Henderson shortly thereafter, finding the bloody gun as well as the victim's shoes and credit card in their truck. The two murderers had attempted to get alibis from their girlfriends. After a long and hotly debated trial both were found guilty and are currently serving life-sentences in prison.

Laramie Inside Out operates on two levels - a personal journey for Beverly Seckinger and a national journey for any viewer familiar with the Shepard murder. There have been only two accounts of the Shepard murder that accurately portray Laramie, Beth Loffreda's book, Losing Matt Shepard and Beverly Seckinger's film, Laramie Inside Out. In both cases, these two women have an advantage over others who have told this story. They both know all about Laramie. Loffreda lives in Laramie, and Seckinger grew up in Laramie. No amount of research by New Yorkers or Californians could, or did, give them that level of insight into the unique character of the town.

In another review of the film, Laramie newspaper reporter and columnist Robert Roten states,

“Seckinger, a lesbian, shows an uncanny empathy for both Wyoming's gay community, as well as for the city and state. This gave her unprecedented access to a wide cross-section of Wyoming's gay community. You see interesting people that you don't see in other films. For instance, there's a tough gun-toting lesbian who likes to hang out at places like the rough Buckhorn Bar in Laramie, the local rifle range, and local fishing spots. She comments that when guys hit on her she tells them that she's gay. Sometimes they reply that if she won't go out on a date, “how about going fishing?” This comment says more about Laramie's laid back attitude toward sexual orientation.”

This film has won awards including the Best of Arizona Award, from the Arizona International Film Festival. Seckinger is an independent producer based in Tucson, and is also an associate professor at the University of Arizona where she teaches courses in video production, documentary history and criticism, and gay studies. She is a founding member of the university's Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies. Since 1993 she has served as director of the Lesbian Looks Film and Video Series. Highly recommended.