Julio Rivera was murdered on July 2, 1990 in the P.S. 69 schoolyard by three young men who went out that night armed with a claw hammer, a plumber’s wrench and a kitchen knife, hunting for “a gay guy to stretch out.” The next day, the press didn’t report on the homicide, the police were looking to write the murder off as a drug deal gone bad, and the community wasn’t going to do anything about it: business as usual in Jackson Heights where during the 70s and 80s over a dozen murders of gay men had never been solved.
Julio of Jackson Heights is the story of how all this changed. It is the story of how a handful of people – Julio’s friends and family – decided that they would not accept the official police report, and learned how to organize, ultimately bringing their case to the attention of then Mayor Dinkins. And it is the story of how their actions sparked a movement that founded the Queens Pride Parade, supported the creation of over a dozen LGBT organizations and ultimately served as the platform that elected two openly gay candidates to the New York City Council.
Twenty years later, the Rivera family, Julio’s friends, community leaders and the police speak of the decisions they made and reflect upon the changes they set in motion.
Director Richard Shpuntoff presents this screening of his documentary film Julio of Jackson Heights about the 1990 gay bashing murder of Julio Rivera in Jackson Heights, Queens, and how the murder became the spark for community organizing and the politicization of the Queens LGBTQ community.The film project started when Shpuntoff started photographing the Queens’ First Annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. He continued to do so for 19 years before making the film. In late 2015, the film begins its festival run—25 years after the murder and the birth of Queens successful LGBTQ political movement in Queens. A Q&A with Richard will follow.
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