‘Friend of Mine’: Matthew Shepard Changed the World

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Matt Shepard wanted to be famous. He longed to change the world, and he has. The tragedy is that it was his horrific murder that made Matthew Shepard a household name.

In the documentary “Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine,” we get to know the 21-year-old Shepard beyond his notoriety as the boyish young gay man beaten and left to die in a desolate Wyoming field.

“The things that made him an incredible person also made him an easy target,” says his school counselor in the film.

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg  Through his friends and family, we learn that he had a great heart, considerable potential, and the determination to make a difference for others like him. A little surprising is that Matt Shepard wasn’t just a country boy from Wyoming, he had lived in Saudi Arabia and went to high school in Europe when his dad’s oil company job took the family overseas.

Matt and his friends explored other countries and cultures, and on one life-altering trip to Morocco, he was attacked, raped and robbed by a group of men.
His mother and others say he was never the same after the attack, that he felt unsafe and unsure of himself until he finally returned to Wyoming to attend college.

More than 15 years after two men were imprisoned for Matt Shepard’s murder, his friend Michele Josue uses home video, personal letters, and the vivid memories of close friends, teachers and most significantly his parents to tell the personal story behind Matthew Shepard.

A goal of the film was to make sure that Matt isn’t forgotten. Dennis and Judy Shepard, along with their youngest son Logan, have honored Matt’s memory with the Matthew Shepard Foundation. One of Matt’s teachers says that the work that the Foundation does mirrors what Matt would have wanted to do after graduating from college.

Judy Shepard hopes to get through to young people today “that the bullying and putting down of another group of people is not right.”

Matt’s death inspired international outrage, bringing to light the danger of hate crimes and hate speech. The goal of filmmaker Michele Josue is to keep that outrage strong, and the memory of her friend, Matt Shepard, alive.

Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine begins a theatrical run this week, including at the Laemmle Noho 7, and at the Camelot in Palm Springs March 6.


Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and produces content via Saving Grace Films.

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