Tune In: 4 Films To Watch About Matthew Shepard
by Ryan Shea
Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s tragic passing. It is a day that is remembered by millions of people in the LGBTQ+ community and our supporters for many reasons, one being the profound impact it had on us and the legacy he has left in the years since his death.
The entertainment industry has had a vested interest in Matthew’s story and getting it out there for the world to know over the past two decades. It has, for the most part, shone a light on him and his life both before and after what happened on October 12, 1998.
Here are four things you can watch about Matthew for those who want to be educated or reminded of what an amazing person he was.
Dear Jesse (1998)
This may not be as profound as the ones that follow but Matthew was featured briefly in a documentary about notoriously anti-gay politician Jesse Helms.
The doc, made by openly gay filmmaker Tim Kirkman, explores the parallels between he (Tim) and Jesse while also interviewing many of his foes and fans in an attempt to get a better look as to who the controversial Senator really was as a person.
The Laramie Project (2002)
The Laramie Project was initially a play written by Moises Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project in 2000 before it became a movie two years later. It tells the story of the aftermath of Matthew’s murder in Laramie, Wyoming, by way of interviewing a bunch of local residents who gave their honest thoughts on the situation that shook the nation in their very small town. The movie debuted on HBO in March of 2002.
It was a star-studded cast that featured the likes of Christina Ricci, Laura Linney, Camryn Manheim and Clea Duvall, all of whom play real people that were affected in one way or another by Matthew’s death. It earned critical acclaim and eventually won the honor for Outstanding Television Movie by the GLAAD Media Awards.
The Matthew Shepard Story (2002)
The Matthew Shepard Story premiered on the same night as The Laramie Project although it appears as if the latter is more remembered regarding Matthew in the years since.
It was a television film that starred Stockard Channing as Matthew’s mother Judy Shepard and Sam Waterston as his father Dennis. The role of Matthew went to Canadian actor Shane Meier.
This version focuses more on Judy & Dennis and the events that happen after the conviction of the two men responsible for Matthew’s murder (Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson).
Judy & Dennis struggle with the decision of the two men’s conviction that finds them re-examining the life of their son and his own battles to accept his homosexuality. This all leads to their appeal to the court the way Matthew would have wanted in a surprising turn of events compared to the vengeance that could’ve happened.
The film earned Channing an Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Award for her work.
Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine (2012)
The 2012 documentary removes what The Laramie Project did with adding celebrities to Matthew’s stories and strips that away with the focus being on his real & personal friendships. Former friend Michele Josue narrates & goes behind the lens of the doc while interviewing other pals and family members in order to get a more authentic take on the person that Matt was.
Michele did a great job on highlighting Matt’s ups and downs before his passing that focused on his friendships, love and forgiveness while also going into detail about something horrible that happened along his way in life. This is one that audiences have clearly enjoyed watching as it currently sits at 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
About the Author:
Ryan Shea is an established writer who has contributed thought-provoking pieces for many different industries. He has worked for major publications including Newsday, Hollywood Life, Instinct Magazine and The Ladders.