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Visiting professor to discuss documentary film's role in civil rights struggles


BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 1, 2007 – "Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria," an award-winning documentary, will be shown at the Lyric Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m, followed by a discussion with the filmmaker.

Victor Silverman, the film’s co-creator and associate professor of history and coordinator of American studies at Pomona College, will attend the screening. During his visit, he will also discuss recreating the history of sexual minorities and the role of film and television in publicizing struggles for civil rights.

A compelling documentary, “Screaming Queens”; traces the origins of the transgender rights movement to the August 1966 riot at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco, three years before the Stonewall riots that have traditionally marked the beginning of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) struggle for equality. Drawing on interviews with a broad array of eyewitnesses, including prostitutes, drag entertainers, clergy, police officers, and neighborhood activists as well as newly unearthed archival footage, the documentary focuses on the resistance of transgendered San Franciscans to the long history of discrimination and police harassment. By placing the riot within the context of the civil rights and sexual liberation movements of the mid-sixties, the film illustrates the battle for recognition and dignity among a complex group of historical actors.

As transsexual activist and former prostitute Amanda St. Jaymes explains, it tells the story of individuals “determined to make something of themselves.” The documentary “sets out to foster a better understanding of the experiences of transgender people and to inform a broad audience of their often-difficult lives and unheralded accomplishments.”

The event, coordinated by assistant professor of history Robert Stephens, is a part of the Women and Minority Artists and Scholars Lecture Series. It is sponsored by the Provost’s office, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the LGBT Alliance, and Amnesty International. Additional funding was contributed by the departments of history, interdisciplinary studies, and sociology, as well as the humanities and women’s studies programs, the Women’s Center, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

This documentary has been featured in a number of national and international film festivals and has one several awards, including a Northern California Emmy.