tue 23/07/2019

DVD: Queerama | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Queerama

DVD: Queerama

A glorious film reclamation of Britain’s troubled gay past

A kiss, from Campbell X's 'Stud Life'British Film Institute

Last year, the BFI commemorated the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality with the release of Queerama, part of its Gross Indecency film season. Now available on DVD, the documentary from Daisy Asquith eschews standard storytelling for something all the more provocative.

Queerama is compiled from the BFI’s huge film and television archive, one hundred years of LGBT+ documentaries, dramas, musicals and comedies, all told through the heterosexual lens of the day. Curiosity, confusion and disgust were narrative constants.

QueeramaBut in Queerama, the narrative has been hijacked by the music of John Grant, Goldfrapp, and Hercules and Love Affair. The footage transforms into a selection of music videos for gay anthems, carefully edited to dance to the beat. Puzzled old news reports add a vulgar, ironic commentary to proceedings. This is not an educational retelling of gay life in Britain, but a glorious reclamation of these troubling portrayals.

The film’s intention is not overt, but it is persuasive. Topics such as love, lust, domesticity and heartbreak are covered in the film’s runtime, with legality taking a back seat. It is not accusatory, instead focusing on the humanity and love behind the marginalisation. Asquith and her editors let you draw your own conclusions, and the film is all the more powerful for it.

Queerama’s DVD is surprisingly well equipped for a British indie release, thanks to its support from the BFI’s archive. The special features consist of a Q&A with director Daisy Asquith, the cinematic trailer, and full versions of four archive films that feature heavily in the documentary. These include two reports from This Week, the short film Rosebud, and a brilliantly mad visual adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Also included is a booklet of essays surrounding the subject.

Queerama won’t be for everyone – no matter how far we’ve come in 50 years, 110 minutes of pumping music with bare cheeks and crossdressing isn’t teatime viewing for the whole family – but it is by no means niche either. It’s the story of gay life, as it was and as it is, which is the story of love.

@OwenRichards91

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