Matthew Shepard was an innocent human being. A human being who was taken from this world all too suddenly. A human being who was viciously murdered, because he was gay. Murdered in 1998, in the prime of his life, by two inhuman, homophobic men whose names will not be mentioned in this review, mainly because they don't deserve to be recognized. Matt Shepard was a remarkable guy, who was a people person. He was smart, talented, and very articulate. Michele Josue's film debut tells us just that, and why he was such a beloved person. It also shows us why he continues to be a hero, long after his untimely death.
But it is not just about Matt Shepard, it is about how he inspired gay rights, and his killing reflected the discrimination against the LGBT community as a whole. Josue goes back to the shocking case with exclusive photos, never-before-seen video footage, and interviews with everyone who knew him and loved him, including his mother (LGBT rights pioneer Judy Shepard), his father (Dennis Shepard), and his friends (including Josue herself).
We encounter new revelations about Shepard's horrific death, which has remained one of the most disturbing crimes in American history. There is footage of the trial involving his two killers, including some really infuriating moments of remorseless, cocky, and downright unforgivable attitudes of the the killers themselves. One moment that will absolutely break your heart shows Judy discussing about how she tried to keep her tears in control, while Dennis is talking to everyone who have gathered at a church to remember Matthew, that unfortunately included nasty protestors with signs of hatred towards Matthew and everyone in the LGBT community.
We also witness touching moments of Matthew with his younger brother, Logan. We see from this that Matthew was a really wonderful older brother. We meet his friends that he met in Saudi Arabia, where Dennis took the family, as he was stationed there to work in the oil business. We realize how important and friendly he really was.
There have been many great documentaries about Shepard's life, but Josue's film takes a much different approach in allowing us to go deep into why Matthew was a great gift to the world. If I knew him, I'm pretty sure that I would have liked him, and he seemed like a really charming young man who had so much passion, and love for people, even if some people, mainly homophobes who despised him.
This is what a documentary should do, which is to allow you to feel emotions, and learn along the way. Josue should be given much praise for her talent of creating an honest and courageous film that will open your eyes, and also keep the tissues handy. Matt Shepard deserved a wonderful tribute, and this film is definitely the one.
Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine screens in twelve cities this February. Opens at New York's AMC Empire 25 on February 6, 2015. Expands to Los Angeles' Laemmle Noho 7 on February 13, 2015