Now We Can Dance: The Story of the Hayward Gay Prom, celebrating a long-standing event in the community of Hayward, California, in the East Bay area near San Francisco. The film chronicles the controversy surrounding the 1995 creation of the gay prom and the significance of having a traditional high school dance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teenagers. The gay prom is the brainchild of the Lambda Youth Project, an LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender) support group. Yearly, hundreds of youth from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, come to the prom because it is a safe place to be themselves and celebrate with other like-minded youth.
The film, available in a 33-minute version with optional Spanish or English subtitles and a shorter 17-minute version, also shows various reactions to the annual event, which draws hundreds of youth. Interviews with early prom organizers, attendees, and supportive community members were interspersed with footage from the 2011 gay prom and interviews with recent prom goers, volunteers, and even a protester.
THE MAKING OF THE FILM
Now We Can Dance is a culmination of a two-year project, funded by Cal Humanities, which trained teens to be filmmakers with help from a team of Hayward Public Library staff and professional advisors, including Academy Award-winning documentary film director Debra Chasnoff.
The Hayward librarians were inspired to create the film after the prom was briefly mentioned in another library digital video project. The library staff realized there was a bigger story behind the gay prom, and they teamed up with several local teenagers to work on the film. The librarians and professional advisors taught the students how to shoot video with library cameras, conduct interviews and research, and do minor editing.
The documentary was funded by a $10,000 grant from Cal Humanities, a non-profit that promotes California cultural projects, with additional funding provided by the Friends of the Hayward Public Library. The film was completed in December 2012, and the premiere in Hayward City Hall drew an audience of more than 200 people.
"Working on the film I learned a lot about the history of Hayward and the perspectives of the adult community and youth on LGBT issues. I learned how important the gay prom is to exist because it gives kids a place to have fun and fulfills their right to feel comfortable,” said Natalina Campopiano, a teen filmmaker and senior at Hayward High School. “It makes me appreciate what I have now."
The film is a shining example of how a library can go beyond its traditional role of curator to create information that not only documents significant aspects of the community, but also brings young and old together in a conversation about the right of queer youth to have a safe environment in which to have fun.
SHOWING THE FILM
Streaming versions of the full film (33 minutes) and a shorter version (17 minutes) are available on Vimeo. A DVD is also available, which includes optional Spanis or English subtitles. If you would like a DVD copy of the film for your school, library or organization, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
An accompanying curriculum that includes classroom exercises and discussion questions and addresses how the film relates to California's Common Core Standards is available here.