Film Review – ‘Queerama’ (2017)

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With a mix of queer representation through archive documentary and fictional narratives taken from more than fifty sources, ‘Queerama‘ tells us of the queer identities within Britain over a number of years. Director Daisy Asquith was able to get the rights to several John Grant songs whilst working alongside the musician on another project. The film also has music by Goldfrapp and Hercules & The Love Affair featured prominently in its soundtrack.

The emotional identities are explored alongside what it means to be gay from a legal point of view in history. Sometimes there are captions on-screen highlighting key dates on which laws were passed – Section 28 is discussed in part, as well as law surrounding the age of consent, and more recently civil partnership and equal marriage. What is more, the focus though, are the varying representations of queer people in film and television.

From ‘The Killing of Sister George‘ (1968) to ‘The Angelic Conversation‘ (1985), from ‘Victim‘ (1961) to ‘Young Soul Rebels‘ (1991), the mix of representation is broad. The television work is very interesting here as well. The DVD has the TV films ‘This Week: Homosexuals‘ (1964) and ‘This Week: Lesbians‘ (1965) available to watch in full. The use of some of this factual programming in the main feature works well to establish a social context alongside some of the captioning.

The only issue not referred to explicitly is of gender and gender fluidity. It seems that on first glance Asquith’s use of the word queer is focussed primarily on conventional same-sex desire. However, there are some interesting factual works that discuss gender shown in the main montage of ‘Queerama‘. Specifically, we see another TV doc from the BBC called ‘Consenting Adults 2: The Women‘ (1967) in which young person Stevie talks about using he/him pronouns and wearing masculine clothing.

Unfortunately, there are some films omitted where they feel relevant to the discussion. On the Q& A on the DVD extras, Asquith explains that films like ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ (1985) and Andrew Haigh’s ‘Weekend‘ (2011) were off limits due to both rights and expense. This is obviously a shame, though there are still a variety of works highlighted.

Queerama‘ has the subtitle ‘A century of gay rights and desires on film’. Though it is only seventy minutes, the film weaves in several themes and stories from the recent history it discusses. However, as wide-ranging, as it is, I get the feeling that it only skims the surface of some queer narratives. The next ‘Queerama‘ film (if there were to be another) should not be the following years, but instead a more in-depth look at one of the specific identities already shown. It is an excellent starting point, but a starting point is all you should expect.

Queerama‘ will be released on DVD on 26th March 2018.

Zach Roddis | [rating=4]

Documentary | UK, 2017 | 15| 26th March 2018 (UK) | BFI DVD | Dir.Daisy Asquith |Buy:(DVD)