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Out in the Night

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Producers Blair Doroshwalther, Giovanna Chesler, Mridu Chandra, Yoruba Richen

Synopsis

Out in the Night is a documentary that tells the story of a group of young friends, African American lesbians who are out one hot August night in 2006 in the gay friendly neighborhood of New York City. They are all in their late teens and early twenties and come from a low-income neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey. Two of the women are the focus — gender non-conforming Renata Hill, a single mother with a soft heart and keen sense of humor, and petite femme Patreese Johnson, a shy and tender poet.

As they and their friends walk under the hot neon lights of tattoo parlors in the West Village, an older man sexually and violently confronts them. He says to Patreese “let me get some of that” as he points below her waist. When she says that they are gay, the man becomes violent and threatens to “fuck them straight.” He spits and throws a lit cigarette. Renata and Venice defend the group and a fight begins, captured by security cameras nearby. The man yanks out hair from Venice’s head and chokes Renata. Then, Patreese pulls a knife from her purse and swings at him. Strangers jump in to defend the women and the fight escalates. As the fight comes to an end, all get up and walk away. But 911 has been called and the man involved has a puncture wound from the knife. Police swarm to the scene as their radios blast out warning of a gang attack. The women are rounded up and charged with gang assault, assault and attempted murder.

Three of the women plead guilty. But Renata, Patreese, Venice and Terrain claim their innocence. They are called a “Gang of Killer Lesbians” by the media. In activist circles they become known as The New Jersey 4 (NJ4).

Through the lives of these four young women, Out in the Night reveals how their race, gender identity and sexuality became criminalized in the mainstream news media and criminal legal system.

About The Team

Blair Doroshwalther (Director, Producer) Blair (who identifies as gender non-conforming and uses both male and female pronouns) is a social issue documentary director, experienced production designer, and activist artist with a passion for inspiring action for social justice through media. Blair graduated with a BFA in Film from NYU (Cum laude) and was awarded the Adam Balsano Award for social significance in documentary filmmaking for hir short documentary “Metsi,” on water privatization’s impact on women in a South African township. Hir short documentary “Cry Don’t Cry,” on bereavement experienced through the eyes of a diverse group of teenagers, is distributed worldwide through Aquarius Videos and won the National Health Information Awards’ Silver Award in 2005. Blair’s feature documentary in post-production, Out in the Night, has been recognized and supported by the Sundance Film Institute, Jerome Foundation, Frameline, Women in Film Finishing Fund, and NYSCA, among other foundations. Blair’s non-filmmaking work focuses on social justice issues. Blair has worked at Harlem United, servicing homeless clients with HIV/AIDS, and rayogram, a web design company for non-profits, and studied the impact of clients’ digital engagement campaigns.