An intimate chronicle of the community's response to this high-profile hate crime

An achingly intimate journey into the response of the citizens of Laramie, Wyoming to one of the most sensationalized and publicized hate crimes of the 1990's. Laramie Inside Out is a testament to the bravery of small-town queers everywhere who choose to stay home and fight the good fight, where their existence is radical and changing the world.

Frameline International LGBT Film Festival
Synopsis: 

In October 1998, Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left lashed to a fence to die. The horror of this murder pushed Laramie into the media spotlight and sparked a nationwide debate about homophobia, gay-bashing and hate crimes. 

As Laramie braced for the trials of Matthew's killers, filmmaker Beverly Seckinger returned to her hometown to see how his murder was transforming the site of her own closeted adolescence. In Laramie Inside Out, we meet "God-hates-fags" Westboro Baptist Church Reverend Fred Phelps, who condemns Shepard and all LGBTQ people to hell. But we also meet students, teachers, parents, and clergy determined to fight for the soul of their community.  

October 12, 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of Matthew's death, a watershed moment that continues to reverberate through the ongoing struggle to create a more just world. Yet most college students today have never heard the name Matthew Shepard.  Laramie Inside Out vividly recounts this pivotal chapter in LGBTQ history, and keeps Matthew's memory alive.

Reviews

So powerful--beautifully done! It's so moving, so imaginatively and intelligently conceived and executed.

Lillian Faderman, Author, The Gay Revolution

With warmth, humor, and insight, Bev Seckinger gives us a vision of Laramie that few have imagined. By documenting the strength and resiliency of Laramie's gay and lesbian residents, her film offers a complex corrective to most media depictions of her hometown. A lovely, loving testament.

Beth Loffreda, Author, Losing Matt Shepard

An important addition to the narratives that help us understand what happened to Matthew Shepard, why it happened and how that community was affected by the crime.

Moises Kaufman, Screenwriter/Director,HBO's The Laramie Project

This beautifully structured and tightly edited release is an excellent purchase for college, university, and school libraries as well as large public libraries.

Library Journal

A story of hope and grace rising from the shadow of hate and darkness.

John Eric Rolfstad, Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries


I advise the SDSU Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), and I want you to know how fabulous it was for the two of my students in attendance to see YOU (as well as your excellent film). We have a very small GLBTQ community, and very few out folks. It was just tremendous for all of us, but particularly these two young women, to get to spend time with you this evening.
 

Ruth Harper, Professor of Counseling & Human Development, South Dakota State University, Brookings

The first film to accurately portray how this city reacted to the murder of Matthew Shepard and the huge media uproar that followed...if you can see only one film about this tragic event, see Laramie Inside Out.

Robert Roten, Laramie Movie Scope

Perfect for college classroom use. By making Laramie, Wyoming a representative American college town that any of us could call home, it reveals hate crimes as never expected but unfortunately all too common in today's world. Most importantly it shows college students and townspeople coming together with bravery and courage to confront hatred and heal the social fabric.

Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, Professor of Women's Studies and Anthropology, University of Arizona

Laramie Inside Out does a number of things very well. It offers a unique perspective on Matthew Shepard's death, examining what effect it had on the town of Laramie through the eyes of a lesbian who has a personal connection to the town. It challenges easy assumptions about the intolerance of sexual minorities in both small town life and Christianity. It also portrays a range of forms of activism, including marching, silent protest, teaching and just simply coming out...The film brings a significant amount of nuance to the issues it addresses, and this commitment to capturing a range of sometimes contradictory meanings, which is maintained throughout much of the film, is one of its strongest features.

Teaching Sociology

Highly recommended.

Educational Media Reviews Online

Laramie not only provides courageous and touching stories of what it means to be out in the U.S. west, but it also brings out the power and importance of religion in struggles for social and sexual justice.

Janet Jakobsen, Director of the Center for Research on Women, Barnard College, and Co-author, Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance

This film offers a unique perspective on the impact of Matthew Shepard's murder on Laramie, WY, one more complex and accurate than the sensationalized and stereotypical picture the mainstream media often provided. Seckinger's personal experience and filmmaking talent combine to give us a film that demonstrates how grace and honesty can overcome bigotry and fear in the aftermath of great tragedy. Laramie Inside Out gives us hope as we continue the battle against hate and prejudice.

Cathy Renna, Former News Media Director, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

I’ve actually taught your film in conjunction with The Laramie Project in a class on documentary theater/film, and the film provided such an important contrast of perspective on events (as well on documentary storytelling) that I convinced my co-teacher (the director of the show, Jeffrey Storer) to include it in the coursework that the cast/crew undertook for this production.  We watched your film early in the semester as part of a class meeting focused on documentary films/tv programs about Matthew Shepard’s death. It provided us invaluable footage of the “real” people (some of whom also appeared in the play). 

Jules Odendahl-James, Resident Dramaturg, Duke University

Seckinger...discovers a hitherto quiet gay and lesbian community that suddenly found its voice and purpose in the aftermath of the crime.

Video Librarian

Facilitates students and teachers into productive dialogue that might become a catalyst for positive social change.

Teacher Librarian

Rather than dwelling on Shepard's horrific death, the film focuses on the healing process...the positive message of hope and support is comforting, especially to teens and adults confronting their own sexual identity issues.

Booklist

An effective tool for educating people and creating awareness of the struggles that GLBT people face in life, and particularly the discrimination that so often comes from organized religion.

Bob Irland and Jim Guenther, Reconciled in Christ movement, Lutheran Church (ELCA)

A powerful educational tool for anyone interested in the life and death of Matthew Shepard and the emergence of a city that has experienced profound shame, and emerged a more unified and tolerant community.

Melinda Levin, University of North Texas Journal of Film and Video Vol 57, nos. 1-2, Sp/Summer 2005

Thank you again for sharing Laramie Inside Out with us.  I want you to know the people burst into spontaneous applause as the movie ended.  I think they were inspired and filled with hope.

Jami Anderson, Pinedale Wyoming
Director's Commentary: 

October 10, 1998
Laramie, Wyoming

Dearest Bev,

This past two days have been the most painfilled I have spent on this campus. Jim Osborn and others of the LGBTA are getting support from the community, but nothing can address the horror.

In love and trouble,
Janice

Clearly Janice, my beloved former professor at the University of Wyoming, thought I knew more than I did. Somehow, I'd missed the stories on the national news describing the vicious beating of a 21-year old UW student named Matthew Shepard.

The story which unfolded in the ensuing days, of a slight young man, battered by a pair of drunken bullies and left hanging on a fence outside of town, bloody and unconscious in the freezing night; his death a few days later, and the national outpouring of grief and rage, memorial vigils and political actions, the rising tide of cultural criticism and commentary in the press, on television, on the web, on listservs. All this riveted and consumed me from my faraway vantage in Tucson. I had grown up in Laramie, and the aftershocks of Matthew’s murder moved me deeply. I finally decided I had to go back and see for myself how this tragedy had affected my hometown.

I drove into Laramie Easter weekend, the night before Russell Henderson's (one of Matthew's killers) murder trial was scheduled to begin. The next morning, Fred Phelps and his small band of "godhatesfags" followers would be picketing at the courthouse. I grabbed my camera and a quick cup of coffee, and headed down Grand Avenue to see them in person. As I passed the courthouse, I caught sight of their neon pink, green, and yellow signs: "Matt in Hell", "Fags die, god laughs", "Gay Rights: AIDS, Hell." Phelps followers were ringed by a dozen or more counterprotesters, dressed in white angel costumes, whose broad wings block the signs' hateful messages. Outside the ring of angels swarmed squadrons of media cameras, boom mics, clipboards, cell phones, satellite trucks. Could this really be happening in sleepy little Laramie?

Two hours later, the scene moved to the UW campus, outside of the Student Union. In sixth grade I had gone there with my friends to drink vanilla cokes and watch the anti-Vietnam protesters and pretend we were in college. How strange now to find the most extreme proponents of late-90's anti-gay hysteria trumpeting their message on this same campus, and to find this valiant band of angels—Matthew’s friends from Denver and Laramie—there to defy these unwelcome out-of-towners, not with angry words, but with a message of love. Laramie, the town where I had grown up in the 70's, closeted and unaware of the wider gay world, had suddenly stepped to the forefront of the struggle for gay rights, if only for this brief media moment. That afternoon, back at the courthouse, Russell Henderson changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms. My journey back to Laramie had just begun.

In the months that followed, I spent time getting to know the angels and their supporters all over town. Shooting most of the time as a one-woman crew, with a small and unintimidating camera, I enjoyed intimate access to people and places off limits to a larger camera or crew.

I found a vibrant campus LGBTA (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Association) that constituted a queer community for University of Wyoming students and staff. I joined them for their weekly post-meeting coffee klatsch at the Village Inn, bowled with their team on league night at Laramie Lanes, grilled burgers at a weekend potluck that gathered together dozens of gay Laramie-ites in a town where I'd never known any before.

I found a community of lesbian professors, and supportive allies throughout the campus. I found Father Roger, the Newman Center priest who had organized the first vigil for Matthew when he still lay unconscious in the Ft. Collins hospital, a tireless advocate of the "essential human dignity of all people". I found that the terrible tragedy of Matthew's death which at first had left people shell-shocked, bruised, and shattered, had over time spurred a sort of community soul-searching and jump-started gay rights organizing in the state of Wyoming as nothing had done before.

Laramie Inside Out is at once the story of how Matthew's death affected Laramie's gay community, and how I came to renew my relationship with my hometown. After college, I had left Laramie in search of my own lesbian identity. Twenty years later, when Matthew Shepard was found on that fence, and the national media proclaimed Wyoming "a bad place to be gay," I returned to Laramie afraid that I would be forever alienated from this town where I had marched in the homecoming parade, played high school basketball, and fallen in love for the first time. But thanks to the active and welcoming gay community and its many allies, some of whom I have known since childhood, I felt connected to Laramie in a whole new way.

Now, nearly 20 years after the murder, Matthew's legacy continues to unfold.

--Beverly Seckinger