Tongues Untied

This retrospective screening will be followed by an extended Q&A with Associate Producer Brian Freeman, Subject Cornelius Moore, Signifyin’ Works board member Vivan Kleiman, LGBTQ activist and writer for Bitch Media Zoe Samudzi, and Berkeley African American Studies and queer theory academic Jamal A. Batts.

Emmy Award-winning director Marlon T. Riggs’ Tongues Untied uses poetry, personal testimony, and performance, featuring poet Essex Hemphill and others, to address homophobia and racism. The stories told offer fierce examples: the man refused entry to a gay bar because of his color; the college student left bleeding on the sidewalk after a gay-bashing; the loneliness and isolation of the drag queen. Yet they also affirm Black gay male experience: protest marches, smoky bars, “snap diva,” humorous “musicology,” and Vogue dancers.

Winner of the Best Documentary Prize at the 1990 Berlinale, Riggs’ groundbreaking work wasn’t well received by mainstream audiences, and the American conservative right cited the film as “pornographic art.” In reply, Riggs stated, “People are far more sophisticated in their homophobia and racism now ... they say ‘We object to the language, we have to protect the community’ ... those statements are a ruse.” While battling the controversy off-screen, Riggs reinforced the on-screen declaration that “Black men loving Black men is a revolutionary act.”

Riggs’ semi-autobiographical work provides insight into a filmmaker, writer, and artist who captured the intersectionality of Black gay life in a way that continues to be unrivaled. Tongues Untied has found audiences through Frameline Distribution since its release, ensuring that it continues to be viewed, studied, and experienced across the globe.

— Alexis Whitham

PRECEDED BY:
Voguing: The Message
DIRS David Bronstein, Dorothy Low, & Jack Walworth 1989 USA 13 min

One of the most popular titles on Frameline Voices, this pre-Madonna primer on the roots of the gay Black and Latino dance form raises questions about race, sex, and subcultural style. Director/Producer David Bronstein expected to attend.



Co-presented by:
RADAR Productions
San Francisco Cinematheque
SOMArts Cultural Center

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