Some films are little acts of revolution, simply in their very existence. Starting today on Max, The Stroll is available to stream for general audiences. A searing ode to the fortitude of Black trans sex workers in New York City's Meatpacking district pre-gentrification, the HBO Documentary reifies the importance of bearing witness.
Co-directed by Zackary Drucker and trans activist Kristien Parker Lovell in her debut behind the camera, The Stroll carefully weaves a portrait of a city at a time when Black trans sex workers ruled 14th street in what is now known as Tribeca. "The Stroll" refers to the stretch of the isolated streets upon which these women were afforded a certain safety away from a society that ruthlessly saw them as expendable.
Importantly, The Stroll also takes great pains to demonstrate that this is not just a trans story, it is trans story with a trans gaze, as Lovell, a former sex worker herself, is seen in front of the camera, asking questions and offering up her own experiences. "I wasn't in control of my own story," Lovell says in the film's opening minutes, and so The Stroll becomes something of an act of remembrance.
Using pristine archival footage and artfully placed and done animations, Drucker and Lovell memorialize all the pain and sorrow of the 1980s and 90s, but in lockstep with the joy and triumph of having a space to build community. They rightfully lambast the NYPD for its history of transphobic abuse (all the while revealing how much of the police took advantage of the sex workers before arresting them) – as well as how Rudy Giuliani's rise to power brought upon a bloody era of reactionary politics and gentrification. With remarkable poetry, the film traces how the AIDS epidemic led directly to the expulsion of an entire community – and how legendary activists Syliva Rivera and Marsha P. Jackson were ostracized by a gay community not yet willing to embrace trans lives as their own.
Living as we are in a moment of especially virulent anti-trans legislation, The Stroll is especially important as a document of persistence.
"I feel blessed to tell my story."