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There have been hundreds of lesbian and gay directors since the beginning of cinema. Many of them have been outstanding creators, and stirring activists. A director is not always the only, or even the main, creative mind behind a film – a film is a collective project. But many individuals have developed a line of work that became associated with them, and some have pulled together creative teams which have produced scorchingly beautiful (in and out) films.
The hypnotic solidity of male bodies in Sergei Eisenstein, the vampire as
metaphor of homosexual ‘tante’ fairies in F.W. Murnau, a world of strong women
with men as footnotes in Dorothy Arzner, the mental convulsions caused by
repressing desire for a woman in Germaine Dulac… And that’s just four directors who are not
even part of our season!
A film made by a lesbian, gay, or bisexual director is not automatically a queer film. For example, see the behind-the-camera work of Jean Cocteau, Ida Lupino, James Whale, Jodie Foster, Patricia Rozema, or Charles Laughton -- although the antiheroes that often protagonise their films have inspired many. In fact, a good few films without a gay theme were initially conceived as gay stories, such as Colin Higgins’ Harold and Maude (a quirky intergenerational love story), or David Lean’s Brief Encounter (a frustrated secret affair). As importantly, films like Emile Ardolino’s mega-hits Dirty Dancing and Sister Act, have camped up heteros like no one had dared before.
So is there a lesbian and/or gay aesthetic, and have filmmakers helped develop it? For us here at the Film Qlub, there is no question: how else would lesbians and gay men have managed to find their kin, in a world so often determined to eliminate us? How else, unless there were visible markers of sexual otherness? -- a visual language that we could recognize? But perhaps we are wrong, and we are looking forward to some heated post-screening discussions this season.
This season, we will see how lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men have embraced queer visual signs in their characterisation and imagery. We will see how these directors, working from that common pool, have tried to do things differently, both visually and in terms of storytelling. We will see how they have attempted to correct deficiencies in LGBTQ representation, responding to the needs of their own historical moment.
Our chosen ten have made an invaluable but not always fully acknowledged contribution to the history of cinema, as well as to LGBTQ art and culture. This band of brothers and sisters never met, but they have fought together as the shock troops attacking the system from all corners. From Alla Nazimova’s glorification of camp, to Kenneth McPherson’s queering of time, Stacy Passon's cheeky look at post-legalisation-of-marriage vacuum, Greta Schiller’s portrait of Paris as a leisured lesbian, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s pansexual fairy tale, Gus Van Sant’s ode to the lawless nonsense of love, Marta Balletbó-Coll’s compelling anti-epic of daily gay life, Vincente Minelly’s pastel-coloured song to survival, Dee Rees’ boxing match with the coming-of-age genre, and Xavier Dolan’s x-ray of The Tantrum as weapon of Self Destruction.
In this season, we will spend some time with ten ambitious lesbian and gay directors and the films they helped create. We are not interested in worship -- we wanted an excuse to see how very differently gay filmmaking has been through the years, how those differences complement each other, and what a great contribution to cinema they have made. Ten splendid films, proving that gay aesthetics and gay politics can be a spring board, to help propel everyone onto a richer and fairer world.
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