It’s often been said, “time heals all wounds,” but in the case of Matthew Shepard, there isn’t enough time in the world. Sixteen years ago, a bright, personable, young college student was beaten, tortured, and ultimately murdered. The reason? Matthew Shepard was gay.
In October of 1998, the world watched as a quiet Wyoming town became the epicenter of a gay rights movement. Activists stood their ground as the anti-LGBT protestors collided with them. Celebrities held rallies. Politicians began work on new hate crime bills. And in the middle of all of this, overlooked and mislabeled by the countless headlines and special reports, was everything Matthew Shepard truly left behind – his dear family and close friends.
Filmmaker Michele Josue is one of Matthew Shepard’s close friends. Bewildered by the attention her lost friend was receiving, Michele realized even in the midst of her mourning the news media had it all wrong. They didn’t know who Matthew Shepard was. In fact, no one even knew him as Matthew Shepard. He was simply, “Matt.” After over a decade of mourning and attempting to understand how this horrible tragedy could happen to such a special person, Michele Josue decided it was time to introduce the world to the real Matt Shepard.
Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine is a documentary film 16 years in the making. A labor of love, Michele Josue began reaching out to Matt Shepard’s friends and family, conducting interviews with those who knew and loved him, and collecting hours of archive footage. Though painful at times, the director/filmmaker continually placed herself in positions where she had revisit and relive those terrible moments from October of 1998 in an effort to reveal the whole story.
The result of Michele’s heart wrenching labor: a poignant and moving journey through a life that was tragically far too short. Sourcing personal home movies, photographs, and interviews with loved ones, Josue remarkably introduces the audience to the real Matt Shepard. Reminding viewers of the details surrounding Matt’s death, Michele primarily focuses on the other side of the picture and reveals a young boy who meant a whole lot more than headline fodder. A boy just like anyone, leading the audience to the realization, “Matt Shepard could have been a friend of mine too.”
Not surprisingly, Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine has received great acclaim among film festival audiences worldwide. Leaving audiences with a mixture of sorrow, hope, and inspired energy, Michele Josue did an extraordinary deed to honor and memorialize the loss of her dear friend. She crafted a loving and personal eulogy and gave the world a new perspective on a boy we all thought we knew.