“QUEERAMA”— A Century of Gay Rights and Desires on Film


A Century of Gay Rights and Desires on Film

Amos Lassen

I was very lucky to get a chance to see a screening of director Daisy Asquith’s documentary, “Queerama”. While it is basically a reflection on the shifting status of LGBTQ people within the United Kingdom field of pop culture landscape, it can also be seen as quite universal. The film is a summation of the societal changes regarding in the LGBT community in the last century or so. It is a loosely structured montage of archival footage that spans decades yet it really does not have a whole lot new to say. However, the empathy and energy by which these images and ideas are edited together into a single piece make the film an entertaining and often poignant tribute to the progress made, as well as an implicit acknowledgement of the progress that still must be made.

There is no formal narration but rather a pop soundtrack. As well introducing new subjects for the film to explore (be it gay night life, or the threat of physical assault faced by the openly queer) and providing the odd piece of statistical data or historical context regarding British LGBTQ life, there is a lot to see here.

It’s easy to laugh at the old-fashioned voiceover and its naïve insights on homosexuality, “Queerama” also looks at the harmful consequences of the widespread ignorance implied in these decades-old clips. Much of the film sees an intriguing push and pull between the hardships faced by members of the LGBTQ community, and the love and exuberance found even in tough times such as the segment on HIV/AIDS.

Structurally the film is loose but there are also moments where the film seems at a loss for how best to use its 70-minute runtime and sometimes retreads familiar points with another batch of footage. The fluid sense of style keeps it watchable even when it isn’t so revelatory. The pop culture excerpts that are usually explicit in their queerness, but sometimes implicit are the film’s most exciting and richly supported insights.

We see that queerness has always been a part of British life, persisting in neighborhoods, films and TV shows whether noticed or not. This is a must-see for any movie buff that is into celebrating British LGBTQ history in the cinema.  Asquith created her fascinating film with the help of British Film National Archive and the documentary covers a century of gay experience including “persecution and prosecution, injustice, love and desire, identity, secrets, forbidden encounters, sexual liberation, and pride.”   We are guided through the relationships, desires, fears and expressions of gay men and women against the backdrop of a time of incredible change.

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