August 4, 2015 5:02 PM EDT

Forty-six years after the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, action flick director Roland Emmerich offers his own version of the pivotal moment in the gay rights movement in the Sept. 25 movie Stonewall.

It’s an unexpected pairing—the director responsible for over-the-top movies like Independence Day and White House Down—and the most pivotal moment in history of the gay rights movement. Detractors on social media have already questioned whether a film with such heavy material has been handed to the man who coached Will Smith on how to punch an alien in the face.

But apparently it was a passion project for the director who has said in interviews that he was forced to make budget cuts (and even move filming from the historically accurate New York City to Montreal) in order to get the film made. He also had to squeeze the production in before he turned his attention to Independence Day 2.

The movie follows a fictional young man named Danny who is kicked out of his parents’ house because of his sexuality and begins to live on the streets in New York City. Danny befriends a group who spend their nights at the Stonewall Inn, a gay-friendly club run by the mafia. When police repeatedly raid the bar and harass and physically abuse its patrons, tensions rise.

Let’s take it as a good sign that Stonewall is slated for the Toronto Film Festival in September.

Write to Eliana Dockterman at

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