This screening is part of our celebration of pride in Kriterion. The other film If It Were Love (2020) will be shown on August 8th.
Marlon Riggs’s landmark documentary uses poetry, personal testimony, rap, and performance to describe the homophobia and racism faced by Black gay men.
Marlon Riggs, with assistance from other gay black men, especially poet Essex Hemphill, celebrates black men loving black men as a revolutionary act. The film intercuts footage of Hemphill reciting his poetry, Riggs telling the story of his growing up, scenes of men in social intercourse and dance, and various comic riffs, including a visit to the “Institute of Snap!thology,” where men take lessons in how to snap their fingers: the sling snap, the point snap, the diva snap.
The stories are often devastating: the man refused entry to a gay bar because of his skin color; the college student left bleeding on the sidewalk after a hate crime; the loneliness and isolation of a drag queen. Yet they also powerfully affirm the Black gay male experience through protest marches, smoky bars, “snap diva,” and Vogue dancers. Made, in Riggs’s own words, to “shatter this nation’s brutalizing silence on matters of sexual and racial difference,” Tongues Untied remains, three decades after its controversy-inciting release, as urgent and vital as ever.