Valentine Road

DIRECTOR: Marta Cunningham

Expected to attend: director Marta Cunningham.

The extraordinary centerpiece documentary of Frameline37, about the 2008 murder of 15-year-old Larry King, will both break your heart and fire you up into action. It was a horrific school shooting that riveted the country— especially LGBT communities. On February 12, 2008, in an Oxnard, California, classroom, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot classmate Larry King twice; King died of his wounds two days later. King, a gender-variant youth of color, had liked to wear makeup and high heels to school, and he had publicly announced a crush on McInerney. For this reason, some of McInerney’s defenders say the victim had “embarrassed” the shooter—and was therefore at least partly to blame for his own murder.

Valentine Road is about an outrageous crime and an even more outrageous defense of it, but the film goes much deeper than mere outrage. In the end, it’s the story of two victims of homophobia. King was killed because of it, but McInerney’s life was horribly twisted by it as well. And it’s the story of a community’s response—sometimes inspirational and sometimes cruel—to a terrible tragedy.

Filmmaker Marta Cunningham deftly looks beyond the sensational aspects of the murder, introducing us to King’s friends, teachers and guardians, as well as McInerney’s loved ones—both boys had led difficult lives of abuse and neglect. And then, in examining McInerney’s prosecution and defense, the documentary poses difficult questions about punishing juveniles for serious crimes, while exposing society’s pervasive and deadly intolerance of young people who don’t conform to its gender “norms.” Valentine Road brilliantly focuses on how bigotry and prejudice are community-wide problems, not just the acts of individuals.

— CHARLES PURDY

This film contains graphic depictions of homophobic violence.

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