Learn a lesson from “Laramie”

Diana Luzzi

Hate crimes are receiving a lot of attention from the media today and the issues revolving around these crimes are becoming extremely controversial. One hate crime in particular has caused a lot of Americans to think about the problem, and the film “The Laramie Project” addresses this particular incident.

This film focuses on a tragedy that occurred in Laramie, Wy., when Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student, was viciously assaulted and murdered. Although the act would have been loathsome regardless of the reasons behind it, this crime received even more attention because Shepard was murdered because he was gay.

The incident took place in 1998 and the film was released in 2002; this shows that the issue continues to reverberate for us and challenges us to understand this sort of hatred. The more understanding people have, perhaps the more these crimes may be prevented.

The film itself is quite revolutionary, because it does not depict the hate crime itself; instead, it captures the reaction of the town in the aftermath of the disaster. Moises Kaufman, along with various members of New York’s Tectonic Theatre Project, visited Laramie numerous times following the death of Matthew Shepard. They held over 200 interviews with residents from all walks of life, and many of them are reenacted in the film by well-known performers including Laura Linney, Steve Buscemi and Janeane Garafalo.

In these interviews, a variety of emotions are expressed. Although none condone the murder, some admit to not agreeing with the gay lifestyle, and a number go so far as to voice dislike for gays. There are some interviewees, however, who are not bothered by the lifestyle, and a few of them are gay themselves. In this way, Kaufman was able to sample a tiny slice of each emotion that was involved within the town during the scandal.

The upcoming offering in Villanova’s current Cultural Film & Lecture Series, “Loss of Innocence/Growth of Awareness,” this film will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday, April 2 at 7 p.m., Sunday, April 3 at 3:30 and 7 pm., and Monday, April 4 at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with I.D. and $5 for all others.

The Monday showing only will feature Shawn Tracy, O.S.A., as the guest speaker. Tracy will introduce the film and lead a discussion, “Shepard’s Flock,” afterward.