Filmmaker’s Statement

I remember the day I learned there was going to be a Pride Parade in Jackson Heights.

I was walking along 37th Avenue, having moved back to the neighborhood a few months earlier, and in the window of La Uruguaya (a bakery-café that is now called Lety’s) there was a flyer announcing Queens’ First Annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade and Multicultural Festival. The emotion was so strong and indefinable that after walking another twenty feet up the avenue I had to turn back and read it again, to make sure it was real. Back then I couldn’t have put it in these words, but now almost 20 years later I would say that I felt as though I had just learned that the civil rights movement was starting again, in my neighborhood.

Richard Shpuntoff - Film's director

Richard Shpuntoff – Film’s director

I attended and documented that first parade, photographing it in color and black-and-white, made prints for the Pride Committee and told them how proud I was of them, of the neighborhood, of the whole thing. They invited me to photograph the next year’s parade and the next, and eventually titled me the Parade’s official photographer. At the time of this writing, I have documented in still photographs and moving images all nineteen parades.

The decision to make a film about the murder of Julio Rivera, however, was slow in coming. Though I wasn’t living in New York in 1990, I was aware of the murder, having read some articles at the time and having heard about it from my parents who lived six blocks away from the site of the murder. My first attempt at documenting the important role that the organizing in Julio’s name had on the creation of the Parade was in the form of a text entitled “For those of you who don’t know…” which I included in all the photo exhibitions of my work on the Parade. But for a few years, I left it at that. Around 2004, I began the first of various attempts at creating a film portrait of the Parade, but was never satisfied with the results. I felt heavily the absence of a person I would never be able to portray: Julio Rivera.

In 2007, when my father died in the same hospital in which Julio died (though under very different circumstances) I realized that I had never profoundly experienced the loss of death. And up to that point, I had believed that asking people like Alan Sack, Julio’s friend and ex-lover, and Teddy Rivera, his brother, to talk about losing someone they loved on camera was somehow cruel and intrusive. The loss of my father made me see things differently: as the documentarian of the Parade, I now felt obligated to at least offer them the opportunity to keep the memory of Julio and their work alive through a film.

I decided I would reach out to Alan and the Rivera family and got their phone numbers from a mutual friend. Less than five minutes after Danny gave me the numbers I went to Lety’s – that same bakery-café where I first learned of the Pride Parade – to sit down and make the phone calls, and when I walked in there was Alan Sack sitting with a friend, having a coffee.

I introduced myself and this is where the film begins.

© [2016] Richard Shpuntoff All Rights Reserved.