Taking Back Oaklawn: How one Documentary covered the attacks better than the media

By: Elizabeth Guevara (@elliegguevara)

Steven Pomerantz’ first scenes from his documentary “Taking back Oaklawn”, were shot just days after the assaults began. The attacks began last year, the night of the Dallas Gay Pride Parade. A week later, several local LGBT activists, including the second victim Michael Dominguez, held a rally in Oaklawn to mark these attacks for what they were, hate crimes. Pomerantz attended the small rally, and heard Dominguez speak. That night felt compelled to do something to bring light to the situation. Although he is a marketing manager and not a film maker, Pomerantz had made a short film before, and thought this would add to the conversation that was happening nationally. During a meeting at city hall, the first shots of the documentary, show the now-activist, Michael Dominguez speaking to the public and advocating for more progress on behalf of the Oak Lawn community. Steven’s initial idea for the film revolved around the victims of the attack, hearing their version of the events and relating it to the actions occurring in Oaklawn. But as shooting continued, more attacks continued happening, and the story began to take interesting turns. More footage was being added what seemed to be weekly. Unlike much of the public, Pomerantz was quickly convinced that these were in fact hate crimes. But the narrative being built throughout the story; from the demonstrations and rallies, to interviews, began to unfold on it’s own. Because of Pomerantz’ new relationship with Dominguez, he was able to be at the center of the rise of S.O.S.; Survivors Offering Support. He attended every protest, meeting and conversation which gave him the footage he needed. The film shows the complexity of the events unfolding in Dallas, and the actions taken by a small community of LGBT leaders, city council and police to combat intolerance and violence. This documentary really focused on the need to take action following events such as this, and the collective actions taken by the community. But as the attacks continued, the urgency to finish the documentary began to hit Steven, as the continuation of the attacks changed what had originally intended to be a short film, into an actual documentary. Pomerantz describes his closing of the documentary, “Unfortunately it does feel like I could shoot forever, because every time it feels like things are settling down, then there is another attack.” Unlike most documentaries, Steven knew that this one would have no ending. This is not a film that has a point A to point B. Steven hoped that during the length of the documentary, it would eventually wrap up with the identification and prosecution of the assailants, which would help wrap up the story. But the varying description of the attackers and events, made finding the assailants virtually impossible. In fact, the interview with the victims suggested that the true antagonist was the hate and intolerance towards the marginalized LGBT community. For Pomerantz, and the Oak lawn LGBT community, the true heroism were the actions taken to influence change and action.