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Julio of Jackson Heights (documentary film)'s video poster

Feature length documentary about the 1990 gay bashing murder of Julio Rivera and how it changed the neighborhood of Jackson Heights. Read more

Queens, NY Documentary
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This project was successfully funded on March 20, 2011.

Feature length documentary about the 1990 gay bashing murder of Julio Rivera and how it changed the neighborhood of Jackson Heights.

Queens, NY Documentary
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About this project


Since 1993, I have been documenting the gay and lesbian Pride Parade in Jackson Heights, Queens, the New York neighborhood where I was born and raised. To look at the parade today – an annual fixture on the Queens calendar attended by over 50,000 including the Borough President, the local Congressman, the Speaker of the City Council and most local City and State level politicians – it is hard to remember or imagine that Jackson Heights’ large lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population lived with an unspoken agreement of don’t ask / don’t tell tolerance for over sixty years.

But that is how things were even in 1990 when Julio Rivera was brutally murdered in the P.S. 69 schoolyard by a hunting party of three young men who were looking for a “gay guy to stretch out.” The murder of Julio was unfortunately typical of gay bashings in Jackson Heights (and in most places): the police weren’t making any effort to investigate, no one in the media reported the story, and the general consensus of the gay community was to best let things be, just as they had done with all the other bashings and murders that occurred in the neighborhood during the 70s and the 80s.

This film, Julio of Jackson Heights, is the story of the handful of people who forced the police to investigate the murder of a man that they considered not worth their time and the trial that followed, a trial that became the first successfully tried hate crime murder in the history of New York State. And it is also the story of how their loss and sacrifices gave birth to the founding of the annual Queens Pride Parade, the election of Jackson Heights’ first openly gay political representative, and in the end, transformed the place that I will always call home.

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The story of how Jackson Heights, Queens changed in response to the 1990 murder of Julio Rivera is a complex one, and I believe it is imperative to portray that complexity in this film. On one hand, most LGBT people that lived here in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s lived with the fear of walking home alone at night or being seen entering or leaving a gay bar, and accepted the persecution of the police regularly raiding their bars, but on the other, for these same people these were beautiful times filled with friendships, lovers, and great camaraderie. There was a sense of being part of a community within a community.

And while the struggles to bring Julio’s murderers to justice, and to battle the local community school board and the local police precinct, and then to found and build a Pride Parade, were at times truly harrowing – death threats were not uncommon – these were also glory days. And when those who fought this fight tell their stories, their voices often become mixed with sadness, pride, regret, and nostalgia.

And even the neighborhood itself: the Jackson Heights I knew as a boy in the 70s and 80s was a very different one and yet it always feels familiar to me.

I am deeply indebted to the many, many people who have not only been generous with their time, but have shared their personal histories with me and have been educating me on the history of the neighborhood, the history of LGBT life in the neighborhood and on the broader history of LGBT politics in New York. I have been made to feel welcome to be a student of these histories. The sacrifice, generosity of spirit and dedication of the many people I am privileged to meet in making this film, is what pushes me on to try to make a film that is in some way worthy of all they have struggled for.


Photos from the book God, Gold and Glory, a portrait of Syracuse, NY 1990 – 92. ($30 reward)

Queens Pride Parade photographs ($10, $20, $150, $225 and $300 rewards)

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    6 backers

    Acknowledgment and thank you on the Facebook page (and eventually webpage).

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    9 backers

    The Lottery Ticket Reward! Anyone who pledges $2 or more will be entered in a lottery. There will be three winners: third prize will be the $60 reward, second prize will be the $100 reward and third prize will be the $150 reward package! (If you give more than $2 than your reward will be a bumping up to the next levels of rewards.)

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    30 backers

    Above plus, a thank you posted on your Facebook page using the image of your choice from the list of Queens Pride Parade photographs.

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    20 backers

    Above plus, a handmade thank you card from the filmmaker. And again, you pick the photo from the list of Queens Pride Parade photographs.

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    16 backers Limited (484 left of 500)

    Autographed copy of God, Gold and Glory, the filmmaker's limited edition black-and-white photo book of Syracuse, NY 1990-92. Plus all above.

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    13 backers

    A DVD copy of the movie when the film is finished and DVDs are printed!

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    14 backers

    All above plus, DVD of short works by the filmmaker, including The Hunts Point Trilogy and Body Electric, a short film portrait of the Annual Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade, made exclusively for supporters of the film. Plus all the above.

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    7 backers Limited (143 left of 150)

    Limited edition poster Queens Pride Parade 1993 - 2010, exclusively for film supporters, plus all the above.

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    4 backers

    Set of ten original Queens Pride blank greeting cards. Pick two images from the Parade photograph list. Thank you in the credits of the film. And, of course, everything else listed up to now.

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    2 backers

    Original 11" x 14" photograph from the list of Queens Pride Parade photographs (color or black-and-white). And all the above.

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    1 backer

    20" x 30" original print of Queens Pride photo (your pick from the list) or two 11" x 14" prints, plus everything else listed above.

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    1 backer

    Everything above, plus invitation for two to attend the Winter Pride fund raiser for the Queens Pride Parade as special guests of the filmmaker. Event takes place in Astoria, Queens in January 2012.

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    0 backers

    March in 2011 Queens Pride Parade as special guest of the filmmaker on Sunday, June 5 and get filmed by the filmmaker. You will have a cameo in the film! (Plus everything else above.)

Funding period

- (87 days)