The 21-year old University of Wyoming student met two men at a bar on the very early morning of October 7th, 1998, and accepted their invitation for a ride home. Instead, he was driven to a rural area near Laramie where the men pistol-whipped him, beat him up, tortured him, robbed him and drove his unconscious body to a rural road where they tied him up to a fence. He was found 18 hours later by a cyclist who initially mistook him for a scarecrow. Shepard would never regain consciousness again but remained alive until he passed away from his head injuries on October 12th.
Shepard's murder drew national outrage. On October 18th I participated in a huge vigil and rally down 5th Avenue in Manhattan in which thousands of people took to the street demanding justice.
Matthew Shepard's murder, of course, would become an emblematic moment in the history of the LGBT rights movement of the United States. It would also resonate with popular mainstream culture as demonstrated by a fictionalized TV movie that ran on NBC in 2002 ("The Mathew Shepard Story"), a 2002 HBO dramatized film based on interviews with Laramie residents which would become a play which is staged to this day ("The Laramie Project") and a 2004 documentary that took a look at the impact of the crime on Laramie residents five years after the murder ("Laramie, Inside Out").
Now comes "Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine", a documentary that promises to give a more intimate and personal look at who Matthew Shepard was before his murder - through the eyes of his friends. That is, if enough money is raised for the director to complete the documentary.
From the press materials:
Los Angeles, April 26, 2011- Independent filmmaker Michele Josue announced the launch of a 44-day Kickstarter fundraising campaign, "Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine" on Friday, April 15th. Josue is looking to raise $50,000 to complete a feature documentary of her close childhood friend Matthew Shepard, who was brutally murdered in an anti-gay crime in October 1998.Of the $50,000 hoped to be raised by May 29th, 2011, 24 people have already pledged $31,660. You can help Michele Josue reach her goal by donating as little as $10 over at the project's Kickstarter page. The film counts with the support of many of Matthew Shepard's friends and is prominently featured on the webpage for The Matthew Shepard Foundation. The Foundation, of course, was launched by Shepard's incredible parents Judy and Dennis Shepard
Funds raised by this campaign will enable Josue and her team to complete a second filming, which will include footage essential to Matthew’s story. Her plans for the filming include a trip across North America as well as Lugano, Switzerland, where Shepard attended high school and became friends with Ms. Josue.
Filming for the bulk of the project began last fall and includes extensive interviews with a number of individuals who were intimately affected by the tragedy. Among them were Shepard's mother, Judy Shepard, a prominent gay rights activist, and his father, Dennis Shepard. Other interviewees included law enforcement and health care professionals who played essential roles in his case. Through the honest and intimate recollections of his family and those who were personally affected by his death, the film seeks to tell the story of the Matthew the world hardly knows and to make sense out of a senseless tragedy.
Here is a video pitch from Michele Josue herself. It includes an incredibly moving film teaser for the movie that goes to show how amazing this project is and why it's so worth supporting with a donation.