In 2008, eighth-grader Brandon McInerney shot classmate Larry King at point blank range. Unraveling this tragedy, the film reveals the heartbreaking circumstances that led to the shocking crime as well as the aftermath.
Directed by Marta Cunningham
Produced by Marta Cunningham, Sasha Alpert, Eddie Schmidt
Executive Producers: Jonathan Murray, Gil Goldschein
Editor: Tchavdar Georgiev
Director of Photography: Arlene Nelson
Original Music: Michael Orendy
Note: There are two versions of this program on the same DVD: the original 88-minute theatrical version and a 54-minute classroom version.
"An invaluable resource. I was riveted all the way through." Ellen Bass, Instructor, Creative Writing, Pacific University
On February 12, 2008, in an Oxnard, California, classroom, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot classmate Larry King twice; Larry died of the wounds two days later. Larry (Leticia), a gender-variant youth of color, had liked to wear makeup and heels to school, and had publicly announced a crush on McInerney. For this reason, some of McInerney's defenders say the victim had "embarrassed" the shooter--and was therefore at least partly to blame for his own murder.
VALENTINE ROAD is about an outrageous crime and an even more outrageous defense of it, but the film goes much deeper than mere outrage. In the end, it's the story of two victims of homophobia. Larry was killed because of it, but Brandon's life was horribly twisted by it as well. And it's the story of a community's response--sometimes inspirational and sometimes cruel--to a terrible tragedy.
Filmmaker Marta Cunningham deftly looks beyond the sensational aspects of the murder, introducing us to Larry's friends, teachers and guardians, as well as Brandon's loved ones--both children had led difficult lives. In examining Brandon's prosecution and defense, the documentary poses difficult questions about punishing juveniles for serious crimes, while exposing society's pervasive and deadly intolerance of young people who don't conform to its gender "norms."
VALENTINE ROAD brilliantly focuses on how bigotry and prejudice are community-wide problems, rather than only the acts of individuals. It asks how schools can respond to the the full complexity of students' lives, and support students in crisis before tragedy strikes.
Grade Level: 8 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2014
Copyright Date: 2013
DVD ISBN: 1-56029-087-0
"A powerful documentary...Cunningham exposes the virulent hatred that led to the murder, but also and perhaps more crucially shows the conditions of possibility in the school and in the wider community that allowed, and even encouraged, such hatred to erupt into murder. Valentine Road is a forceful indictment of the homophobia, transphobia and racism that led to Larry's death. Anyone who believes that the battle for 'tolerance' for LGBT lives has now been won needs to see this film."
Professor Gayle Salamon, Assistant Professor of English and the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, Princeton University
"A deeply moving and human experience...A richly educational work that draws the viewer into a tragic event with empathy and intimacy, and provokes a shift in perception that will be valuable in academic settings...The film makes an overt case for tolerance and understanding of those we might think of as 'other,' and a subtle plea for youth to have safe spaces to explore and grow. It is a valuable resource to stimulate discussion and a mindset shift in educational institutions about questions of identity, tolerance, and violence in our society."
Lina Srivastava, Faculty, Design for Social Innovation, School of Visual Arts
"Valentine Road vividly illustrates that the hatred that led a classmate to murder Latisha (Larry) King did not exist in a vacuum, but was the product of the bigotry against people of color and LGBT people in her school and community. The film is an excellent teaching tool and sure to generate valuable discussions about institutionalized racism, heterosexism, and genderism; victim blaming; the devaluation of the lives of trans people of color; and the effects of a hate crime."
Genny Beemyn, Director of the Stonewall Center, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Author, The Lives of Transgender People
"This is an invaluable resource. I was riveted all the way through. Valentine Road is filmed almost without commentary, but instead allows the many people involved in and touched by this tragedy to speak for themselves and trusts those viewing the film to think deeply for themselves. The complexities of these issues are never reduced to easy answers, but a strong moral vision runs through the film. I wish every classroom in America could view and discuss Valentine Road."
Ellen Bass, MFA Faculty, Pacific University, Author of Free Your mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth and their Allies
"The young men and women in the film were extremely open, articulate, and willing to share their thoughts and feelings in this powerfully emotional documentary. There were so many victims as well as so many teachable moments. I hope Brandon is able to leave prison one day and use his life in the service of others different from himself. Who knows? In the meantime, there are so many messages, both positive and negative, that the film offers to viewers."
Ronni Sanlo, former Director, UCLA Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Campus Resource Center, Author, Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender College Students: A Handbook for Faculty and Administrators
"Valentine Road adeptly uses student voices, teacher interviews, and police station and trial video footage to document the tragedy...This documentary will inspire vivid conversations about individual rights, the responsibility of the school, and social and political values about the prison system and trying juveniles as adults."
Emily Fisher, Associate Professor, School Psychology Program, Loyola Marymount University, Co-author, Creating Safe and Supportive Learning Environments: A Guide for Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth and Families
"Valentine Road drives us along ordinary, all-too-familiar scenes, of schools, residents and families, forcing us to consider the shattering points of community and education. Painfully poignant and still struggling accounts of 'what happened?' - from teachers, students, residents - are re-told against a beautiful landscape turned ugly with hate crime...We are asked to dwell on who else is denied a future when fear and abuse are common currencies traded in and beyond the classroom, often despite brilliant attempts at different lives. The film takes us to the final resting place for Lawrence - but reminds us of desires, hopes and flights beyond hate."
Yvette Taylor, Head of the Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, London South Bank University, Author, Queering Religion, Religious Queers
"Valentine's Road is a powerfully crafted film that reflects the layer upon layers of pain caused by this tragic moment in history. The film sets a complicated scene of gender normativity, white privilege, child abuse and neglect, teacher's lack of preparation to deal with difference in students, gun violence, and the insensitive and inappropriate responses by law enforcement and school administration in the face of tragedy. The film offers a starting point for the hard conversations we need to have as teachers, parents, peers, policy-makers, and administrators about gender, sexuality, race, and other factors that produce hatred."
Michele Eliason, Associate Professor of Health Education, San Francisco State University, Author, Who Cares?: Institutional Barriers to Health Care for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Persons
"Valentine Road takes a story we thought we knew, and humanizes everyone involved, so that ultimately, viewers understand that whatever the source of anyone's homophobia and transphobia, these issues hurt all people, not just folks who are gay or trans. It is my hope that by watching Valentine Road, educators, administrators, and young people will develop more empathy and understanding for the wide diversity of people they may encounter both in their schools, and in the wider world outside their own classrooms and communities."
Rachel Pepper, Author of Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children and Co-author of The Gay and Lesbian Guide to College Life
"More than simply re-telling events, the film highlights perplexing issues pertaining to the U.S. justice and education systems and raises a number of thought provoking questions...These thought provoking questions, in addition to the overall content, make Valentine Road potentially useful as an educational tool for multiple disciplines. While recommended as an educational aid for social sciences and studies of gender and sexuality, Valentine Road is highly recommended as a tool for educator development and/or in-service trainings."
Jacob Carter, New York State Library, Educational Media Reviews Online
"The teacher's and viewer's guides, scene selection, and generally solid production values make for a strong teaching tool...This sensitive and thought-provoking film will spur audiences interested in gender identity issues, societal intolerance, bullying, and juvenile justice to reflection and discussion."
Joan Pedzich, Library Journal
DVD includes both the 88 minute theatrical version of the film and a 54 minute classroom version, a teacher's guide and a viewing guide on the DVD-ROM portion of the disc, SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
The film's website
GLSEN's website (The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network)
Awards and Festivals
Sundance Film Festival
Video Librarian's 2014 Best Documentaries List
School Library Journal's 2014 Top 10 List
Outstanding Documentary, Frameline Film Festival
Best Documentary, Berkshire International Film Festival
Audience Award, NewFest, NYC
First Time Director Award (Documentary), Philadelphia QFest
Best Documentary, Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
Audience Award, Best Documentary, Fresno Reel Pride Film Festival
Best Documentary, TLVFest
Best Documentary, Side by Side LGBT nternational Film Festival
Best Documentary, Gaze International LGBT Film Festival
Best Documentary, Madrid Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Best Documentary, Out on Film
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Miami Internaional Film Festival
HotDocs International Documentary Film Festival
Ashland Independent Film Festival
New Zealand International Film Festival
Durban International Film Festival
Melbourne International Film Festival
Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival
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"Valentine Road belongs in all school and public libraries as a cautionary tale about homophobia, intolerance, and the easy availability of guns."
Bernie Morrissey, The Harker School, School Library Journal
"Of the more than 250 DVDs reviewed last year, the following are memorable works that will enhance curricula with their strong educational and entertainment value...The hard-hitting documentary Valentine Road captures the tenor of our times...The films builds to an exploration of gender, homophobia, race, bullying, gun control, and the juvenile justice system, becoming engrossing and jaw dropping."
Kent Turner, School Library Journal's 2014 Top 10 List
"Riveting...It's up to the viewer to decide whether this is a bigotry-ridden travesty, a system bogged down in 'diversity,' or a town trying to show humanity and tolerance in regards to a crime that everyone agrees never should have happened...This thought-provoking film is highly recommended."
C. Cassady, Video Librarian
"Valentine Road examines the consequences of homophobia...and the community-wide poisons of bigotry and prejudice. How can schools better prepare themselves to react to the difficult problems surrounding their students' lives? How can homophobia and prejudice be countered in today's communities? A teacher's guide and viewers' guide enhance this hard, serious look at dire quandaries."
The Midwest Book Review
"At first glance the story might seem easy to tell. There is a murderer and his victim. In a world so rife with homophobia, Larry was no doubt targeted for his decision to wear women's clothes, and for his nascent flirtation with his eventual killer. Valentine Road doesn't undermine this conclusion, it goes beyond it...Her film is a nuanced investigation into the question of how children become the adults they do...It should not be underestimated what an achievement it is to take on so complex a story and to expose its layers with such a meticulous lightness of touch. Valentine Road announces Cunningham as a singular talent. It is exhilarating to consider what she might bring us next."
Alice Lytton, IndieWire