Action film director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) took a break from blowing things up to make a small-budget art house film about the 1969 Stonewall Riots, and somehow the project turned into a disaster movie off camera.
Emmerich is catching major heat for his passion project Stonewall, according to the Hollywood Reporter, by many who believe the filmmaker is whitewashing history by centering his story around a white male protagonist.
For those who don't know, the Stonewall Riot was a confrontation between protesters and police outside of a Greenwich Village gay bar in 1969. The riot is widely regarded as the birth of the modern LGBT movement. It was a multicultural protest, with transgender minorities deserving the bulk of the credit — figures like Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and Storme DeLarverie, known as "the Gay Community's Rosa Parks," are the faces of the incident and the movement that followed.
A newly released trailer for Emmerich's film, however, puts the mantle of history on a handsome white guy from the Midwest. Now, a petition to boycott Stonewall has amassed more than 15,000 signatures.
"To all considering watching the newest whitewashed version of queer history, it is time that Black and brown transwomyn and drag queens are recognized for their efforts in the riots throughout the nation," the petition reads.
Emmerich responded to the criticism on his Facebook page. "I understand that following the release of our trailer there have been initial concerns about how [the main character’s] involvement is portrayed," he wrote, "but when this film — which is truly a labor of love for me — finally comes to theaters, audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there — including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Ray Castro — and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day. We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance."
Meanwhile, activists painted over the white Stonewall statues in Christopher Park with brown paint and adorned them with dresses and wigs today, saying it was an attempt to honor the trans women who led the 1969 movement and whose contributions are habitually erased from history.
Watch our interview with Emmerich, in which he talks about why he regularly casts Black actors to play the president in his films, below:
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(Photo: Centropolis Entertainment / Mel's Cite du Cinema)