Fifteen years after the horrific murder of Matthew Shepard, his close friend and former classmate Michele Josue exposes the real figure behind the headlines in her intimate documentary Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine.

The film has its international premiere Saturday in Toronto as part of Inside Out, Toronto's annual LGBT film festival. 

Matt Shepard

Matthew Shepard and filmmaker Michele Josue (seen at centre) are pictured in a childhood photo. (Michele Josue/Canadian Press)

Through interviews with Shepard's parents, friends and former teachersJosue offers an in-depth look into Shepard's life and captures stories that go beyond the barbaric details of his shocking murder. 

"I watched, just like the rest of the world did, Matt's story unfold and become this big media storm. And I think that what I found very heartbreaking was that the Matt that I knew — the person — was sort of slipping away and being replaced by this icon whose identity was linked to hatred and horrific violence," Josue told CBC's Deana Sumanac.  

"That in itself was a tragedy and that the world didn't get to know who he really was and just know that he was just a normal human being, who had hopes and aspirations, but also struggles — just like everyone else." 

Though she initially wanted to make a film after Shepard's death in 1998, she really dove into the project in 2009 after Shepard's mother, Judy, released her book The Meaning of Matthew. 

"I think that sort of spurred [Josue] into action to want to get people to know Matt — our Matt, her Matt — not Matthew Shepard, who was becoming somebody no one recognized," Judy Shepard said. 

In the first attached video, Deana Sumanac reports on the legacy of Matthew Shepard.

In the second, Shepard's parents Dennis and Judy discuss how they learned more about their son through Josue's documentary.