Movie Review: The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project
It does not come as a shock to me that, in the wake of the media announcement that the Obama Administration would sign the United Nation’s declaration for support for gay rights, the movie The Laramie Project would immediately pop into my head. While I was too young when this movie initially came out to fully grasp its message, I did understand its importance and significance in society. And right now, gay rights issues are frequently in the media. According to CNN and the New York Times, Obama has recently met with gay rights groups and the United Nations to talk about protecting the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders. The Laramie Project is the story of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student whose brutal death is told through the reactions and stories of the citizens of the town in which he lived. At its heart, The Laramie Project indicates that hate can hurt more than just the direct victim; it can traumatize those that are left to deal with its consequences.

Done in a documentary-style fashion, The Laramie Project focuses on the reactions of the Laramie townspeople to the murder of Matthew Shepard. The director, Moises Kaufman, initially wrote a play of the same name using interviews he and his acting troupe conducted with the people of Laramie. Raw emotion is easily seen in the movie version, mainly because of the honest and spot-on acting done by the well-chosen cast. I have never watched this movie and not been affected in some way, whether through the welling of disgust for those who committed the crime to utter sympathy for the victim and those with whom he was connected. The excellent cinematography enhances the surreal, “feel-like-you-are-actually-there” experience that one gets while watching the movie.

Gay rights and especially human rights in general, are a hot topic all around the world, and the United Nations is ahead of the game. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for equality between all people. In the news recently, the Obama administration has been quoted as saying that President Obama will support a UN declaration calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality. Obama’s stance is opposite the policies of President Bush. The Declaration states that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders should have the same rights as heterosexuals. The Laramie Project shows how the violation of human rights can profoundly affect everyone related to both the people involved and the situation itself.

I would highly recommend this movie to anyone willing to have an open mind and heart. The sad story of a small Wyoming town thrown into chaos because of the lethal actions of two men shows an intimate view into the consequences of hate crimes. The Laramie Project is available at the University of Iowa Main Library. A movie of this caliber is definitely a winner, and I hope that other viewers love it as powerfully as I do.

Amanda ShineInternational Movie Reviewer

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