30 Mar Before Pulse, This Fire Was The Deadliest Attack On LGBTI Community
Upstairs Inferno is a devastating feature-length documentary chronicling a little-known chapter in the history of the gay rights movement in the United States. Before last year’s massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a deadly 1973 fire in a New Orleans gay bar marked the most deadly attack on the LGBT+ community in US history.
Despite leaving more than 30 members of the local community dead, writer and director Robert Camina only learnt of the arson attack several years ago and was inspired to share the heartbreaking story with audiences worldwide. “I asked myself the question, ‘why isn’t this story more prevalent in our culture?’ He told news.com.au ahead of the film’s premiere at Mardi Gras Film Festival.
“It doesn’t exist in the common LGBT history narrative. I felt that needed to change. There is something about seeing and hearing the story from those who experience an event, that truly makes it ‘real’,” Mr Camina said.
On June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to the Up Stairs Lounge, a small-but-popular gay bar located on the edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana. Due to flammable carpets, a wooden staircase and barred windows, few patrons were able to escape – and the film depicts some of these deaths are depicted in harrowing detail.
Making the story particularly poignant is the fact that one third of the members of a local gay-friendly church were killed in the blaze, including two clergy. The film includes several moving testimonials from those who survived, who speak for the first time about the small community they found in the church and the second home the ill-fated upstairs bar allowed its members.
Narrated by New Orleans own New York Times Best Selling Author, Christopher Rice, this film is an important one for those like myself who had never even heard of the attack. It’s a humble reminder of our community’s history and the struggles still faced by so many today.
“These were unfinished lives, tragically cut short by a senseless act. The victims and their families and friends left to cope with the aftermath deserved better treatment than what they got,” Camina said.
“This is a gruesome story; there is no way around it. But I hope through it all, people walk away with a renewed call for compassion: Compassion for those unlike us. Compassion for those who are hurting. Compassion for those in need. Because there definitely wasn’t a lot of compassion when this tragedy happened.”
Upstairs Inferno screens on Saturday 25 February 2017, 4:30pm, at Events Cinema George Street.