Out in the Night

Gay African American women defend themselves against a violent sexual assault and are arrested for attempted murder.

Out in the night 01
Premiere Date
June 22, 2015
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call

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The Film

Out in the Night follows Renata Hill, a young, gender non-conforming African American woman and mother to a young son, struggling to make ends meet in New Jersey.

On a warm August night in 2006, Hill and a group of six lesbian friends go out in the West Village, a gay-friendly neighborhood of New York City. On the street, a man makes an advance toward one of the women, but after realizing she is gay, he sexually and violently threatens her and the group. A short fight escalates as Renata and some of the women defend themselves while strangers on the street jump in to defend them. After the skirmish ends with injuries on both sides, police sweep the neighborhood, arresting Renata and her friends, charging them with serious crimes including gang assault and attempted murder.

Three women take a guilty plea, but four — including Renata — argue they fought in self-defense and are not a gang. As they await trial, they become known as the “New Jersey 4” by activists, while the media dubs them “Wolfpack” and “Gang of Killer Lesbians.” The trial becomes racialized and with gendered prejudice, as both the District Attorney and judge try to paint the women as a menacing gang instead of as friends on a night out. Renata and her friends are found guilty and receive unprecedentedly harsh sentences — 3 to 11 years — for a crime that in most cases would have been met with a fine and short prison sentence. Now in prison, separated from her son, Renata must begin a new fight — to maintain custody while dealing with painful memories that led her to that hot August night.