What’s Worth Watching: ‘Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine’ documentary on Logo for Monday, July 27

Courtesy Logo/Michele Josue

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine ( Monday, July 27, 9/8c, Logo)

To the world at large, he was Matthew: Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old college student whose savage 1998 murder in Wyoming became a watch-cry in the crusade against anti-gay hate crimes. To his friends and family, he was not a symbol, he was simply Matt: charming, curious, charismatic yet fragile, the outgoing life of any party who was just coming to terms with his sexual orientation when he met such a tragic, premature end at the hands of two homophobic thugs. It’s the Matt unstained by violence that friend, former classmate and filmmaker Michele Josue seeks to reclaim in her moving documentary film Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine. As the present tense of the title indicates, for Michele and others who knew Matt best, he’s still very much alive in their hearts, and they’re unwilling to let him go.

With poignant use of home movies capturing Matt and his supportive family at various stages of his upbringing, and tearful readings from his journals and other introspective writings (in which he assigns a delightful list of adjectives to describe his many facets), Josue brings Matt to life as a complex soul struggling to find his place in the world. He met Josue when both were students in a Swiss boarding school (while his parents were stationed in Saudi Arabia for his dad’s work), and she and others express regret that Matt never came out to them. (His mother Judy, now a prominent activist, says she knew he was gay before he did.) One of the reasons Matt’s death looms so large for his friends isn’t because of the notoriety that followed but the more personal realization that there was so much more of Matt to know and love, if only there had been time.