Out in the Night

DIRECTOR: Blair Doroshwalther

Expected to attend: Director Blair Doroshwalther, Subjects Terrain Dandridge, Patreese Johnson, Producer Giovanna Chesler

One night in 2006, the lives of seven African American lesbians were ruined—after they were branded by tabloid newspapers as a “Gang of Killer Lesbians!” and subjected to prolonged entanglement with the criminal justice system, all arising from one questionable street altercation. The riveting documentary Out in the Night explores the notorious case of The New Jersey 4, named for the four of these seven women who pled not guilty to attacking a male “admirer” who threatened to “screw them straight” after they rebuffed his advances. Following the women’s lives over many years, the film takes the viewer on a dramatic and heart-rending journey as these women seek exoneration and justice.

Out in the Night introduces us to the women’s tough but largely tolerant communities and families on the streets and stoops of Newark—a tolerance they thought they would find when they ventured out that night to New York City’s West Village, historically a queer safe haven. What transpired is shown through interviews with the accused, their families, journalists, and social justice activists; police testimony; security footage that captured the assault; and readings from court transcripts. Despite no prior criminal records and a demonstrable case of self-defense, the women were sensationalized in the media as violent lesbian gang members on a rampage; an all-white jury was empanelled to pass judgment.

While focusing on the case, the film intelligently explores the larger ramifications of the court’s rulings and the ongoing media treatment. The individual personalities of the accused women take center stage, but their stories reveal a system—steeped in misogyny, homophobia, and racism—that marginalizes and fails all of us.

— Angelique Smith

This film was a recipient of a Frameline Completion Fund grant.

This film contains graphic violence.

AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: D323

Co-presented by:
NIA Collective
Oakland Underground Film Festival

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