“I didn’t know what was going to happen but I didn’t want this story to fade into the past and be forgotten,” filmmaker Robert Camina shares. “I was astounded in 2009 that people were having to deal with this raid.”
Camina is talking about his gripping documentary that bears witness to the evolution of an LGBT community from passive victimization to united activism. Sound familiar? It should, as Atlanta underwent similar struggles following the 2009 Eagle raid. Camina’s Raid of the Rainbow Lounge documents the raid of a newly-opened Fort Worth, TX gay bar just 10 weeks prior to the Eagle raid and on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
Camina knew he wanted to get this on film and was in Dallas the day after the raids capturing peoples’ reactions during the Million Gay March to commemorate Stonewall. “[Dallas] was where a lot of people learned about the raid . . . we then moved to Fort Worth for their rallies there,” Camina explains. “I initially wanted this to be a short film but the story snowballed and three years later we have a full-blown film.”
And a full-blown film it is. Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, narrated by television icon Meredith Baxter, could have certainly captured the issue one dimensionally and while there is no denying that those from the LGBT community involved in the raid were victims, the film shines because it provides a fair evaluation and balanced conclusion to an issue with many sides.
The film examines the fear, confusion and shock experienced by patrons of the Rainbow Lounge, the eventual response (both positive and negative) from the agencies involved but more importantly it highlights the maturation of a community. It highlights the hope that rises amidst hate, proving that activism, education and understanding can triumph.
“[Fort Worth] was a sleepy, laid back town and they came of age that night,” Camina admits. “The community rallied together, learned from their mistakes and learned how to draw upon each other’s strengths to create change.”
Part of that change included the appointment of an LGBT liaison within the Fort Worth Police Department, laws extending domestic-partnership benefits to city employees and diversity training for city employees.
But with a film like this one, its purpose doesn’t stop when the credits roll. Sure it documents LGBT history, it gives a voice to those who may have been marginalized in the mainstream media but in totality it serves to help a community heal.
“When we had the screening in March in downtown Fort Worth, a lot of the people who were a part of the raids were anxious and scared . . . they didn’t want to have to relive the trauma again,” Camina reveals. “But the film helped provide closure to an emotionally exhausting two and a half years.”
Raid of the Rainbow Lounge plays at Landmark Midtown Arts Cinema, part of Out on Film’s 25th Anniversary, Sunday October 7th at 12:35 pm.