Hot Docs 2013: My Thoughts on Valentine Road

Valentine_Road Just northwest of Los Angeles is the California beach town of Oxnard.  There is nothing particularly special about the town and, chances are, the average person wouldn’t even know where it is.  Except of course, that Oxnard was the site of a horrendous alleged hate crime, which received nationwide coverage in the United States.  Valentine Road examines the events surrounding this tragedy and simply calling this a hate crime isn’t as easy as it seems. On February 12, 2008, 14 year old Brandon McInerney shot his 15-year-old classmate Lawrence “Larry” King twice in the back of the head, right in the middle of their classroom.  The event was apparently the result of Larry, who recently came out as transgendered, asking Brandon to be his Valentine.  Quite ironically, Larry later died in hospital on Valentine’s Day.  On paper, it quite obviously looked like Brandon shot Larry because of his sexual orientation.  However, it turns out that Brandon wasn’t the only one disturbed by Larry’s flamboyant lifestyle.  Despite nationwide support from the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and CNN’s Larry King, a “blame the victim” mentality was developing in Oxnard, in which Brandon’s defence was suggesting that Larry’s lifestyle was the cause of his own murder. Valentine Road is quite a difficult film to look at objectively, since your response to the film will be based on how supportive your are to the LGBT community.  In fact, I somewhat applaud director Marta Cunningham managing to capture both sides of the case, without showing any bias to either side.  I was actually a bit surprised how much sympathy was being shown towards Brandon, even though he was being charged for murder.  Because of the Prop 21 law in California, Brandon was being tried as an adult and his lawyers were arguing that he should be tried in juvenile court.  You also definitely feel bad for Brandon’s family, particularly his mother, who kept calling Brandon a “good boy, who never did anything wrong before.” It quickly becomes apparent that there is much more to this story than simply a guy, who was disturbed that another guy came on to him in school.  There comes a point in the film when you realize how homophobic in general the people of Oxnard are.  It becomes quite disturbing when certain individuals in the film begin casually condemning Larry for acting too feminine and cross-dressing.  I was both angered and disgusted that this type of intolerance towards the LGBT community still exists in the world today.  Thankfully, Larry had friends in school, who were highly supportive of the way he was and seemed lightyears ahead of the adults, who were seemingly still living in the dark ages. Overall, I thought that Valentine Road was an excellent examination of how complicated a crime, which appears to be motivated by hate and intolerance, turns out to be.  The film will be released on HBO within the next year and I hope that everyone gets the chance to see this film and join the debate.  Human beings, as a race, need to learn to get along with each other, no matter how different we appear to others.10 | LOVED IT  

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).