I wanted everyone to know that "Freeheld - The Laurel Hester Story" is just about to be previewed at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. You can read about Lieutenant Hester in the General Area of this board on the earleir pages. This is a documentary of the life and struggle of Laurel to receive benefits for her partner Stacey. If and when the film is shown in your area, PLEASE be sure to see it.
The documentary "Freeheld" which is the documentation of the last few weeks of the life of Lieutenant Laurel Hester, won a Special Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Lieutentant Hester waged a battle during the last months of her life, for her pension benefit rights to be awarded to Stacie Andree, her partner. It was a hard fought battle which lasted months but it was fought with dignity and grace by Laurel. And in the end, she was triumphant. This film is the documentation of that battle and is part of her legacy.
Documentary On NJ Woman's Domestic Partnership Fight Wins Award
Last year, the story of Laurel Hester, a detective on her deathbed, moved officials in Ocean County to act. This past weekend, it won a New York filmmaker a special prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
As Hester lay dying of lung cancer last year, the Ocean County Board of Freeholders voted to change course and offer benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of county employees.
In 2005, Hester, a detective at the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, pleaded for the benefits to be extended so her partner, Stacie Andree, would be eligible for a $13,000 death benefit. It was only after gay rights activists in New Jersey rallied behind Hester that the freeholders changed their minds.
Filmmaker Cynthia Wade heard about Hester's battle in December 2005 and decided to take a camera to a freeholder meeting, thinking the tale might make a good project for her.
She was moved by what she saw and heard _ and hit it off well with Hester.
"There are certain films where you're made to make them," Wade said. And this was one of them.
"Freeheld" will be shown on March 4th as part of Columbia, Missouri's "True/False Film Festival. It's going to be shown in different venues across the country in order to qualify for an Academy Award. Wouldn't that be great? Having had a small role in the "battle" to some extent, I can vouch for the importance of the topic, which is Lt. Laurel Hester's battle with cancer, coupled with her battle to gain domestic partner rights for her partner, Stacee. I seriously urge you to keep an eye out for this documentary. As gay law enforcement professionals, it is incumbent upon us to support this film. It's a real possibility that any one of us could be in the same position that Laurel was. Any news that I get regarding showings will be posted. If you find any news on this topic, please post it.
Just to update members as to some screenings of "Freeheld". There are screenings scheduled for April and May in Boston, Vermont, North Carolina and Tennessee. This is an awe inspiring true story. Some members of this board are witnesses to this fact and are probably shown in "Freeheld". I haven't seen it yet, simply because it hasn't been shown in my area yet. But if you have the chance and the time, please try to make a screening. Laurel and Stacee fought a good fight with class and dignity and helped a lot of people in the process.
An article from "Pam's House Blend" on "Freeheld". It's nice to see that this documentary is being received so well. I hope everyone gets a chance to see it. As of now, I still haven't been able to see it because it hasn't been shown in my area. But if it has a showing where you are, please be sure to see this great documentary.
I understand that there is going to be a screening of "Freeheld" at GOAL New England's LEGAL International Conference. That's going to be a good thing. Nice way to publicize the film and let people know about Laurel and Stacey's battle.
On last week's edition of Gay USA (cable TV) there was an interview with the woman who lived with Laurel and Stacey for a time and eventually produced "Freehold". She said that talk is moving forward of doing a full length feature film about Laurel Hester and her story. I'll post if I hear anything new and ask that others do as well.
It's been a few years since this topic was active but there is some updated news now. The movie version of this story is currently being filmed in New York. Steve Carell from "The Office" is one of the leading roles. A few years ago I had some reservations about dramatizing this story. I felt the documentary was fine enough but now...fine. I have no issues with it. Back in 2005, myself, Frank and a few others from GOAL attended the rallies and hearings associated with trying to get benefits for Laurel's partner, Stacee. I spoke at one of the hearings. Eventually the effort was a success but Laurel passed away in February 2006. It was nice getting to know her and Stacee. And now I hope that when the film is released, that it does well.
Frank (burner) in November 2005 at the first rally for Lieutenant Hester.
Steve Carell films movie at North Hempstead Town Hall
North Hempstead's town board room, the site of impassioned commentary about topics such as salary hikes and utility poles, is briefly opening its doors to residents from as far out as Ocean County, New Jersey.
The board room has gone Hollywood, redressed all week as the Ocean County Board of Freeholders, for a film starring Julianne Moore, Ellen Page and Steve Carell. "Freeheld" has been filming inside the town's board room. It tells the story of a New Jersey detective dying of cancer and seeking pension benefits for her same-sex domestic partner.
Ocean County and New Jersey flags have replaced the North Hempstead and New York State ones; a giant Ocean County emblem covers the clock; county seals are listed above board windows; and the board members' placards have been replaced with ones naming the county board members. A basement room will be staged as Carell's character's office.
Town Clerk Wayne Wink, whose office handles film permits, said the filming has created a "tumult in Town Hall" as the actors have been seen inside the building on Plandome Road, using some office space as green rooms during shooting breaks.
They used it much of Election Day, when government business was closed and the building was open just for voting.
The filming brought about $4,000 in permit fees for the town, Wink said. The town has generated about $80,000 in fees this year, and Wink said the town is on track to receive close to $100,000 by year's end.
The town in 2012 lowered fees, and 2014 is considered a record year.
The "Hollywood" version of "Freeheld" opened recently, with general release to happen next week. While I'm glad the story is getting renewed publicity and attention, even though I had felt comfortable with the show-biz version in the past.....again...I feel a bit uncomfortable with dramatizing the story. (An English teacher would have a field day criticizing that last sentence!) Maybe I'm just on the fence about it. I don't know. For sure, I will go to see it to see how it measures up to the reality that I witnessed. But I have to say...from the trailers and clips I've already seen, Ellen Page make me cringe. Not a fan at all. And Steve Carrell comes off as a stereotype and isn't really like Goldstein. It makes me wonder what Stacee feels about the whole film. But, it is what it is. Lieutenant Laurel Hester was a wonderful, gracious and lovely woman. Stacee was and is a modest, friendly. classy, low key loving woman as well. In any event, I hope people do go see this movie. Even if the original documentary does stand well on it's own. That is the real story. The reality.
‘Freeheld’: The Triumphant Tale of a Gay Cop Who Dared to Live Outside the Closet
Another electrifying performance by the consummate and always surprising Julianne Moore illuminates Freeheld, a fact-based drama that plays out with the perfect naturalism that is her forte. This time she’s a lesbian cop who takes on an entire New Jersey county to demand equal rights, justice and fair play. It’s a poignant, relevant and beautifully made film that must not be missed by anyone with a heart and a social conscience.
This is the celebrated case of Laurel Hester (Ms. Moore), a dedicated police officer in Seaside Heights, N.J., who always kept her personal life private until the day she met a feisty young garage mechanic named Stacie Andree (Ellen Page) at a volleyball game and everything turned upside down. Nervous, insecure and in the closet because of her job, Laurel risked her reputation and her ambition to rise in the ranks of the Ocean County police department, and with her smart, funny and honest new partner at her side, decided to come out of the closet and live her life with new-found pride.
The two women bought and remodeled a house together and were building a happy life together, based on love and self-respect—in spite of the occasional sneer of disapproval and the alienation of Laurel’s squad-car partner, Dane Wells (well played by Michael Shannon), who felt betrayed because she never confided in him as a trusted friend. But things went smoothly, old wounds healed and time was her friend until Laurel was dealt an unexpected crushing blow. She was diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer.
While she endured the side effects of radiation, she was also worried about assigning her policeman’s pension to Stacie. The county commissioners (called freeholders in the state of New Jersey) were prejudiced and reluctant to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners. After performing a public service for 23 years, Laurel earned her right to a safe retirement. Her request was unbiased and simple: she wanted her pension benefits assigned to her partner so she could hold onto their home. To their shame, the freeholders turned out to be viciously homophobic, giving her lip service but refusing to reverse their decision, and even Laurel’s fellow cops failed to come to her defense.
Except for Dane, who started out resentful and ended up Laurel’s staunchest ally. By the time the cancer spread to her brain and lymph nodes, her health darkened and so did her chance for justice, until an aggressive civil rights activist (Steve Carell, in a delightful career move) pushed his way into the fray and appealed to the press, turning Laurel’s dilemma into front page news and an outrageous miscarriage of justice into a national cause.
It’s pretty grim to see Julianne Moore with a shaved head and all of her color airbrushed out of her face, but she gives this movie her all and Ellen Page equals her every move. Both actors give performances so inspired they border on alchemy. The case changed the law in New Jersey, extending domestic partner benefits to all public employees, whether they’re married or not, and paved the way for same-sex marriage licenses. It’s a story that needs to be told, and there’s no more appropriate time to tell it than now. It’s the story that inspired Ellen Page to come out of the closet after years of pain and misery in February 2014, so it has enough special resonance for her to serve as one of the film’s producers.
The sensitively written screenplay by Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) is based on a 2007 Oscar-winning documentary (also titled Freeheld) about the final months of Laurel Hester’s life, and the film has been strongly, wisely directed by Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas). This is a responsible movie of great emotional power filled, with scenes of heartbreaking intimacy about how social change can be activated by empathy, courage and love.