From New York to Berwick - Queer Cinema Retrospective Makes International Premiere at BFMAF 2016
The 12th edition of the Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, which takes place Wednesday 21st to Sunday 25th September 2016, has announced its main retrospective programme and opening film.
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Premiered this Spring at the Film Society Lincoln Center, New York, An Early Clue to the New Direction: Queer Cinema Before Stonewall is the most comprehensive screening series ever undertaken of queer cinema made before 1969 - the landmark year which saw the Stonewall riots take place, sowing the seeds for the burgeoning American LGBT rights movement of the 1970s.
An Early Clue to the New Direction will now receive its international premiere at Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival (BFMAF) this September. Ambitious in its programming, this series at BFMAF speaks to the wider Festival theme of X, as it embraces hidden histories and uncovers archives of queer history where we might least expect to find them. Comprising of eleven films across five days. The Queer Cinema Before Stonewall series seeks to participate in a larger reassessment of arts and culture beyond "gay rights".
Wesley Morris, wrote in the New York Times that An Early Clue to the New Direction is “An unapologetic, unmitigated, mesmerizingly diverse assembly…When it comes to art, time and context are almost chemical properties. A good film series can change the way you watch a movie. This one does.“
It will be the first time the series has been presented outside of the United States, and its curator Thomas Beard will be in Berwick-upon-Tweed to introduce the programme to Festival audiences.
Beard, who has specially curated the selection to be shown at this year's Festival, said “I’m thrilled that a focused selection of this survey, which began at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, will travel to Berwick. One of the central questions which animates the programme is ‘When did queer cinema begin?’ This survey aims to revise that conception dramatically and from a number of different perspectives, considering homophile auteurs in classical Hollywood, silent-era aesthetics, and amateur filmmaking alongside radical formal experiments and lavender touchstones.”
Spanning fifty years of cinema and nine separate screenings at the Festival, the series features an array of experimental films, shorts, documentaries and even Hollywood hits, that foreground creativity in the queer community before the Stonewall Riots of the late 1960s. The films from the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Sweden, all of which will screen from 16mm or 35mm prints, reveals early queer cinema to be far vaster and more varied than received histories might suggest.
“What did queer look like before the German New Wave breakthroughs of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Ulrike Ottinger, before the flashpoint of William Friedkin’s Cruising, before its efflorescence in the ’90s? These are some of the central questions which we seek to explore in the programme,” explains Beard as he prepares to meet audiences in Berwick next month.
Key selections include the film that opened the New York series, Leontine Sagan's Mädchen in Uniform. Written and directed by women and featuring an all-female cast, the film was referred to by eminent queer film scholar B Ruby Rich as ‘the first truly radical lesbian film’. Made in Weimar, Germany in 1931, it was later banned by the Nazis, who unsuccessfully attempted to destroy the film outright.
There’s also a very rare 35mm screening of Vingarne a 1916 Swedish silent film billed as the first to feature a gay relationship more or less explicitly. Other films include Basil Dearden's Victim (1961), featuring Dirk Bogarde in the first mainstream English-language film to portray homosexuality sympathetically (for which the film was initially denied US censorship approval), and selections directed by artists such as Kenneth Anger, Jean Genet, Jean Cocteau and Andy Warhol.
BFMAF Director Peter Taylor said: “This year’s Festival theme of X offers a myriad of possibilities for exploration. Crucially though, it promises tight focus around key issues of our time. X aims to embrace hidden histories and zones of exclusion whilst celebrating the power of film to spark imaginations and transform lives – Thomas Beard’s expertly curated programme on Queer Cinema before Stonewall does exactly that. “
An Early Clue to the New Direction: Queer Cinema Before Stonewall at Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival 2016 features:
Vingarne, Mauritz Stiller (1916, Sweden, 50m) 35mm
Le sang d'un poète, Jean Cocteau (1931, France, 50m) 35mm
Mädchen in Uniform, Leontine Sagan (1931, Germany, 88m) 16mm
Sylvia Scarlett, George Cuckor (1935, USA, 95m) 35mm
Un chant d'amour, Jean Genet (1950, France, 26m) 35mm
Olivia, Jacqueline Audry (1951, France, 94m) 35mm
Victim, Basil Dearden (1961, UK, 101m) 35mm
Flaming Creatures, Jack Smith (1963, USA, 43m) 16mm
Scorpio Rising, Kenneth Anger (1963, USA, 31m) 16mm
My Hustler, Andy Warhol (1966, USA, 67m) 16mm
The Killing of Sister George, Robert Aldrich (1968, USA, 138m) 16mm
Screening times and dates, will be announced when the BFMAF 2016 programme is revealed in August.