By Daryl Bär.
The victim of a barbaric and senseless attack, Matt Shepard was beaten and left dying in a robbery that spiraled into a vicious murder by two homophobic young men. Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine uses footage from home movies, TV news footage and first hand accounts from friends and family to paint a picture of the man, his life and the aftermath of his untimely death.
For first time filmmaker Michele Josue this film is a personal project as she was a childhood friend of Matt’s and uses every means possible to humanize the young man beyond the news’, “Matthew Shepard, Gay man and victim”. Documenting his childhood as a spirited boy and throughout his life you see Matt growing up on screen through the personal accounts of those who knew and loved him.
The personal portrait of Matt in the first half serves as a touching eulogy to someone who had a positive influence on those around him, while the second half never manages to tie all of the individual pieces together. It fails to create a worthy summation of the effects of the US media and its vested interest in Matt’s murder, and equally it wraps up the political and social outcry at this vile hate crime without any satisfying conclusion, but perhaps that’s the point.
The end is sorrowful but not without hope. For all the good that has come in the wake of Matt’s untimely death, from the amendment of US Hate Crime Legislation to the creation of the Matthew Shepard Foundation that works to, “Replace hate with understanding, compassion, and acceptance”, there’s an overall biting air that it took the loss of such a bright man to shake the ignorance from a great deal of middle-American minds.
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