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Freeheld cover photo

Freeheld 2007

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Vanessa Roth and Matthew Syrett
Directed by Cynthia Wade
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
American Studies, Death and Dying, Gay and Lesbian Studies, Law, Sociology, Women's Studies

Date Entered: 06/30/2009

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Winner of numerous national and international awards, including the 2008 Academy Award for Best Document Short Subject and the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize, Freeheld is the story of an average woman’s crusade to do the right thing before it is too late. Although the New Jersey legislature established a Domestic Partnership Act in 2003, providing equal benefits for domestic partners, individual county governments (or freeholds) may make local decisions regarding whether these benefits will be paid or not. Rapidly dying of cancer, veteran New Jersey police officer Laurel Hester spends her last days battling to see that her pension fund is awarded to her same-sex partner, Stacie Andree. With the community she served for 25 years visibly and vocally behind her request for benefits, the elected Freeholders of Ocean County provide feeble but seemingly inflexible arguments for pension denial. In the short 38 minutes of the film, Hester’s private struggle with her disease as well as her public one with discrimination are unflinchingly portrayed with compassion and respect. Director Wade, in telling this story, also encapsulates a significant political and social moment in United States family policy and equality legislation.

Extra features include more than 100 minutes of additional footage, including an interview with the director, deleted scenes, extra interviews, raw footage from the private video diaries of Laurel and Stacie, news stories and movie trailers, Laurel’s memorial service, citizen responses, and scenes from Wade’s Academy Award win.