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Tongues Untied & (optional) Workshop Geoffrey van der Ven
September 4, 2023 @ 18:30 – 21:00
Marlon T. Riggs is a queer filmmaker who wanted to take a stand against the wave of conservatism in the United States that threatened his community during the ‘80s. He made multiple documentaries that engaged with race, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, and cultural representations. Riggs himself called Tongues Untied “a frank homage to the struggle, life and love of black gay men” (Catalog of the Amsterdam Gay & Lesbian Film Festival). With this film, he focused on his views on intersectionality and wanted to break through the taboo that rendered it impossible to openly discuss important issues such as race and sexuality.
The documentary was met by much criticism, questioning whether the film was even fit to be broadcast on the public network. As Riggs rightly stated, perhaps it is thanks to this censorship campaign that the film succeeded in its aims to open this discussion to a wider audience. The film refutes, sometimes with beautifully poetic and other times with great fury, the deeply ingrained and normalized myths of what it means to be gay, Black, male and human. At the end of the film, Riggs also addressed HIV/AIDS — to which he had lost many of his contemporaries. He himself died of complications related to AIDS in 1994, at the age of 37.
Rosa Oomen, QFFU
This program is part of the retrospective Going Underground – An Introduction to New Queer Cinema. Film critic and scholar B. Ruby Rich was the first one to coin the term New Queer Cinema (NQC) to describe a wave of independent queer films made by queer directors from the early 80s to the mid 90s. These filmmakers explored issues such as race, class and gender identity within the LGBTQ+ community. With this program we want to give you a small taste of this groundbreaking cinematic movement. Come explore a collection of underground, experimental and rebellious queer cinema treasures that you rarely experience on the big screen.
This evening is organised together withg Spraakuhloos and Geoffrey van der Ven.
Watching a film is something you do alone, but processing it is something we do together. In this (optional) workshop, we will collectively reflect on Tongues Untied and then proceed step by step to write and share a spoken word text, allowing us to fully appreciate the film and our reflections on it.
The seminal documentary on Black gay life, Emmy Award-winning director Marlon T. Riggs’ 1989 Tongues Untied uses poetry, personal testimony, rap and performance (featuring poet Essex Hemphill and others), to describe the homophobia and racism that confront Black gay men.
The stories are fierce examples of homophobia and racism: 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 the black gay male experience: protest marches, smoky bars, “snap diva”, humorous “musicology” and Vogue dancers.
More than a quarter of a century after its release, director Marlon T. Riggs’ documentary, winner of the Los Angeles Film Critics Award, and Best Documentary prize at the Berlin Film Festival, is as relevant as ever.
“My struggle has allowed me to transcend that sense of shame and stigma identified with my being a black gay man. Having come through that fire, they can’t touch me.”- Marlon T. Riggs
Original language title: Tongues Untied
Directed by: Marlon Riggs
Running time: 55 mins
Genre: Documentary, Experimental
- BIFF 1990 Winner: Best Documentary Film (Teddy)
- BIFF 1990 Winner: Best Documentary (Panorama)
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards 1990 Winner: Independent/Experimental Film and Video Award
- Frameline 1990 Winner (San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival): Audience Award
- National Film Preservation Board, USA, 2022 Winner
- Cinema Eye Honors Awards, USA, 2016 Winner
Content warning: Brief nudity, racist and homophobic slurs
Watching a film is something you do alone, but processing it is something we do together. In this workshop, we will collectively reflect on Tongues Untied and then proceed step by step to write and share a spoken word text, allowing us to fully appreciate the film and our reflections on it.
Geoffrey perceives the world with a curious eye. He experiences, listens, and brings stories to the table. His work is sharp, critical, and often activist. Presentations are personal, centered around the queer and BIPOC identity. With his vibrant energy, he captivates the audience and gives them — in between the pieces — space to breathe and reflect.
As a spoken word artist and theater maker, he tells the stories that have been rendered silent for too long. Currently, Geoffrey is on tour with his solo performance ‘Het is niet nieuw,’ in which he sheds light on the queer history of Africa. Previously, he won the ‘Poet of the Year’ Award at Queer & Feminist Poetry Awards, his recitation was featured at the Eurovision Song Contest, and he performed at prominent venues and events such as the Nieuwe Luxor Theater, Rotterdam Pride, and Museum Nacht.