Director: ‘Raid’ hits gay Atlanta close to home

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Anyone familiar with the case of the Atlanta Eagle bar raid might feel a little déjà vu when watching Robert Camina’s documentary “Raid of the Rainbow Lounge,” debuting Sunday at Out On Film.

When Camina woke up on the morning of Sunday, June 28, 2009, he found a posting on Facebook that would change his life. The Rainbow Lounge, a newly opened gay bar in Fort Worth, Texas, had been raided just hours before as the city was gathering for Pride activities. It was a mere 10 weeks before the infamous Atlanta Eagle raid and its three-year fallout.

The news was reported, but Camina credits Facebook and social media for really getting the news out there.

“A friend who is not one to exaggerate – he is very credible – had posted something,” Camina remembers. “I was shaken and appalled. I did not know what to do.”

Hours later, however, he knew what to do. He drove from Dallas to begin interviewing people who had been at the bar the previous night.

Many of the people who had been involved in the raid he knew already, which meant the interviews were easier. “I already had a rapport,” he says.

Interviewing those people at the bar was time consuming but not difficult – save for the raw emotions of the subjects – but as he tried to get all sides of the story documented, interviews became less cut and dried.

“One of the officers who was fined (after the investigation) refused to talk, but I wanted to interview him and give him the opportunity,” Camina says.

The film deals with how the city and its LGBT residents moved forward after the raid and attempted to heal. Camina feels if any city can relate to what the Fort Worth community has dealt with, it is Atlanta. The director hopes that the film reminds people of what LGBT people can face on a day-to-day basis.

He was able to get out actress Meredith Baxter to narrate the film. A colleague met her at an event, talked up the film and later she saw it and agreed.

“She has such an air of confidence to her,” Camina says. “It is great to have her involved.”

The raid of the Rainbow Lounge happened almost 40 years to the date after the Stonewall Raid, which has lead a few people to feel it was a conspiracy. Camina does not believe that.

“I believe it was serendipity,” he says. “Many people think bar raids exist in the history books but ask them. It is still a reality.”

“Raid of the Rainbow Lounge” screens Sunday at 12:35 pm at the Midtown Art Cinema as part of Out On Film. A Q&A with director Robert Camina follows.

Columnist Jim Farmer is festival director of Out On Film


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