Public Humanities Cinema project 2017
A public film screening and dialog series hosted by Andi Miller, Adjunct Professor of Communication Studies and Art (Randolph College).
Tongues Untied is a 1989 semi-documentary film directed by Marlon Riggs. The film seeks, in its author’s words to, “…shatter the nation’s brutalizing silence on matters of sexual and racial difference.” To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Teddy Awards, the film has been selected to be shown at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2016.
The narrative structure of Tongues Untied is both interesting and unconventional. Besides including documentary footage detailing North American black gay culture, Riggs also tells of his own experiences as a gay man. These include the realization of his sexual identity and of coping with the deaths of many of his friends to AIDS. Other elements within the film include footage of the Civil Rights Movement and clips of Eddie Murphy performing a homophobic stand-up routine.
The documentary dealt with the simultaneous critique of the politics of racism, homophobia and exclusion as they are intertwined with contemporary sexual politics. The film is a part of a body of recently released films and videos, which examine central issues in the lives of lesbian and gay Blacks. Riggs’ work challenged television’s generic boundaries of conformity during the late 80s and early 90s. The television documentary during this time was the conventional talking head, expert interviews, and personal testimonials commonly on public affair issues.
At the time of its release, the film was considered controversial because of its frank portrayal of gay sexuality. Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan cited Tongues Untied as an example of how President George H. W. Bush was using taxpayer’s money to fund “pornographic art”. In his defense, Riggs stated that, “Implicit in the much overworked rhetoric of community standards is the assumption of only one central community (patriarchal, heterosexual and usually white) and only one overarching cultural standard ditto.”
A public discussion and open dialog on the black LGBT culture and in cinema will follow, lead by Andi Miller.
This program is supported by a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH).
About the VFH:
The mission of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities is to connect people and ides to explore the human experience and inspire cultural engagement. VFH reaches audiences across the Commonwealth and beyond through Community Programs, Digital Initiatives, Scholarships, and the Virginia Center for the Book. For more information visit Virginia Humanities.org