Upstairs Inferno – Gay Mass Murder

upstairs-inferno-gay-mass-murder

From award winning director, Robert L. Camina and Executive Producers behind “Back on Board: Greg Louganis”, “Kiss Me, Kill Me”, “Beautiful Something”, “Raid of the Rainbow Lounge” and “Southern Baptist Sissies”, comes UPSTAIRS INFERNO, a poignant and timely documentary chronicling the deadly 1973 New Orleans gay bar arson: an event that remained the Largest Gay Mass Murder in U.S. History for 43 years.
On June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to the Up Stairs Lounge, a gay bar located on the edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana.  For 43 years, it was the deadliest single event to affect the gay community in U.S. history.  Despite the staggering historical significance, few people know about the tragedy. Thirty-two people were killed and some bodies were never identified. One-third of the New Orleans chapter of the Metropolitan Community Church were killed in the blaze, including two clergy.  The primary suspect was never charged with the crime. The tragedy did not stop at the loss of lives. There were also the delayed injuries: lost jobs, fear, public ridicule and severed families. The devastation was compounded by the homophobic reactions and utter lack of concern by the general public, government and religious leaders. The fire permanently altered lives and was the root of many lifelong struggles.
UPSTAIRS INFERNO (96 minutes) is the most comprehensive and authoritative film about the fire and its aftermath. However, UPSTAIRS INFERNO isn’t simply a stagnant exposition of facts. UPSTAIRS INFERNO brings humanity to the headlines by shining a light on the very painful effect the tragedy had on survivors, witnesses and loved ones.  Their interviews are gut wrenching, yet insightful.  Some of the people interviewed in the film haven’t publicly discussed the fire until now, especially on camera. The film is narrated by New Orleans’ own New York Times Best Selling Author, CHRISTOPHER RICE.
Audiences should expect to see a balance between investigative reporting and very intimate profiles of people lost or affected by the tragedy. The victims are more than statistics, more then names in a newspaper clipping or even names on a plaque.    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.
This is a gruesome story, there is no way around it and in light of the recent mass shooting at the gay nightclub in Florida, the parallels strike a painful chord.  Hopefully, now, more than ever, audiences walk away from the film 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 the deadly arson occurred.  In addition, I hope the film acts as a stark reminder that we need to seize the day.  We need to make sure we tell our loved ones every day that we love them, because we don’t know what lies ahead.  Life is fickle and unpredictable. Today may be our last chance.

UPSTAIRS INFERNO recently received the JURY AWARD: HONORABLE MENTION at Frameline: the San Francisco International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, citing its “Special Contribution to Queer History“, the JURY AWARD: BEST MEN’S DOCUMENTARY FEATURE and AUDIENCE AWARD: BEST MEN’S FEATURE at the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE AWARD at the Long Beach QFilm Festival, the JURY AWARD: BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM at the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the  AUDIENCE AWARD: FAVORITE DOCUMENTARY at the North Louisiana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the JURY & AUDIENCE AWARDS: BEST DOCUMENTARY at FilmOut San Diego.

This is an incredibly important story in LGBT history and U.S. history.  While we never imagined there’d be another LGBT mass murder in the United States, we MUST UNITE as a community AND a country and NEVER allow this to happen again.  Especially in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, we must continue to educate and enlighten people.  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  UPSTAIRS INFERNO can open the door to a cathartic and constructive conversation.

Some of the images in UPSTAIRS INFERNO are graphic in nature and may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.