LGBTQ South Florida

Matthew Shepard’s parents: Film shows son ‘laughing and smiling,’ then he’s gone again

Matthew Shepard’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, are flanked by Stuart Milk of the Harvey Milk Foundation and Robert Boo, executive director of the Pride Center at Equality Park, at the first Diversity Honors awards held May 9 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood.
Matthew Shepard’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, are flanked by Stuart Milk of the Harvey Milk Foundation and Robert Boo, executive director of the Pride Center at Equality Park, at the first Diversity Honors awards held May 9 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood. Miami Herald Staff

For Dennis Shepard, watching the documentary about his slain son, Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, “is really hard.”

“There we see Matt, laughing and smiling and everything. All of a sudden, the film ends and Matt’s gone again. It’s really hard to lose him again,” Dennis Shepard said. “Every time we see it, we lose him again. It’s really, really tough.”

It’s been nearly 17 years since Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student, was found tortured and dying on a fence near Laramie, Wyoming. His October 1998 slaying turned an international spotlight on hate crimes against LGBT people and Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy, led the way to Congress adopting the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

On May 9, the Shepards received a Diversity Honors award presented by the Harvey Milk Foundation and the Pride Center at Equality Park in Wilton Manors at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood.

The film, to be screened Friday through Sunday at O Cinema Miami Shores, “brings Matt to life,” Judy Shepard said. “It shows him as more than a name in a newspaper or a photograph. It makes him a whole human with laughs and hugs and memories from his friends.”

The Shepards keep a brave front in public, but most people “don’t know the pain we went through losing Matt,” his father said. “We’re just trying to keep these kids from having that kind of pain, and their families.”

If you go

‘Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine’ will be screened 7 and 8:45 p.m. Friday; and noon, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at O Cinema Miami Shores @ MTC, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.

General admission tickets are $11; students/seniors $9.50; members $7.50. For more information, visit www.o-cinema.org/event/matt-shepard-is-a-friend-of-mine.

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