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Tongues Untied
Tongues Untied
Actor: Marlon Riggs
Director: Marlon Riggs
Genres: Documentary, African American Cinema
NR     2008     0hr 55min

Marlon Riggs`s portrayal of homophobia and racism caused controversy during Tongues Untied`s original 1991 airing on PBS`s P.O.V. series and contributed to the national debate about the National Endowment for the Arts fund...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Marlon Riggs
Director: Marlon Riggs
Genres: Documentary, African American Cinema
Sub-Genres: Documentary, African American Cinema
Studio: Strand Releasing
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 03/18/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 0hr 55min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Finally on DVD!
Jeffery Mingo | Homewood, IL USA | 03/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If "Looking for Langston" and "Paris Is Burning" are on DVD, then it's about time that this is as well.
This may make past viewers teary. Both the artists on the cover of this documentary died of AIDS-related causes more than a decade ago.
This work speaks about voguing, snapping, gay racism, Black homophobia, being a double minority, and many other issues very relevant to Black, gay men. Some thought it was sexist that Black lesbians are not included; however, others say it would be problematic if Black gay men were speaking for Black lesbians. This documentary talks about many dynamics that affect men mostly or solely.
To some, this may seem old-school or essentialist. There's all this focus on "the down low" nowadays. However, this documentary showed Black men who were proud of being gay and were open about it.
Viewers who enjoy this visual work may want to read "Brother to Brother," edited by Essex Hemphill, one of the men on the cover.
This documentary was revolutionary when it premiered. Jesse Helms and Far Right politicians attacked it greatly a few decades ago. This is an important factor in the "culture wars" pre-Bill Clinton.
You can't fail by seeing and owning this magnificent work."
That was then...
Olukayode Balogun | Leeds, England | 04/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There was a definite feeling of hope among people in the black gay community in London when I first saw a screening of this groundbreaking documentary back in the early 90s. I know I'm not the only one who felt that sense of hope because my contemporaries and I talked about it all the time. We felt that we could actually see a day that would come, in our lifetimes, when there would be a mass black gay rights movement. A day when it would be possible for all of us to be black, gay, out and proud. Well, that was then.

On a personal level, the screening came at a time when I was still coming to terms with my own sexuality and struggling somewhat. The documentary (and my fleeting meeting with Hemphill, who attended the screening) changed how I was to feel about myself as a black gay man forever. After seeing it available for years and years on (exorbitantly priced) VHS only, I was over the moon when I learned it was finally to be released on DVD. I ordered my copy immediately.

Filmmaker Marlon T. Riggs produced an angry, defiant and in-your-face piece of work that was revolutionary in more ways than just the one. For starters, it reportedly unleashed a huge backlash from the Christian right in the US and Federal funding for the arts came under a real threat. Largely using the poetry of Essex Hemphill, who also appears in the piece, (Is it a documentary or is it a piece of art? I'm still not really 100% sure), along with storytelling, dramatisations, song, dance & movement, and talking heads mostly against a pitch-black background, Riggs lays it all out on what it meant to him to be a black gay man back in the late 80s. It's all here; the homophobia, the racism, the isolation and the loneliness suffered by many, but on the other hand, so also are the black gay activists, the protest marches, the "snap divas", the vogue dancers and the slowly emerging warm feeling of brotherhood amongst gay men of colour. We needed to unite and untie our tongues, was the message, otherwise we would forever remain oppressed and forever remain unheard. It's a reference to "Tongue-Tied in Black and White", a poem by Michael Harper in which he expounds on how the mores and languages of a dominant culture can stifle the creativity of peoples within that culture.

Well, that was then. It was a different era. An era where AIDS was cutting a huge swathe through black gay communities not just over there in the US but here in the UK too. 1989 (which is when this was originally made) was a long time ago and when you consider the fact that a man born in that year would be 19 years old now, it's entirely possible that some people, younger black gay men in particular, might dismiss this film as a fluffy piece of nostalgia. That would be a mistake in my view, as there's a lot to be learned here. It may be from an African-American perspective but this movie documents a crucial time in the history of black gay men and as with all things, it's difficult if not impossible to have a full understanding of where you're going, if you have no idea where you came from.

What I loved the most was that the piece recognised the diversity that existed and still exists among black homosexual males. Although there was much about the movie that I couldn't immediately identify with, there was also much that I could. Either way, I knew exactly what the movie was talking about because I knew the people the movie was talking about. In many instances, the movie was talking about me.

To suggest that hope died with Marlon Riggs and Essex Hemphill would probably be going a bit too far, but their passing was definitely a personification of the huge devastation wreaked on black gay men by AIDS between the early 80s and mid-90s. Our communities lost many true leaders and if you ask me, things have never really been the same since. We may have gained many things but we've paid an incredible price along the way. This is now.

DVD extras include newly released deleted scenes and outtakes, a 1991 interview with the director, Marlon T. Riggs and interviews with filmmaker Isaac Julien, AIDS activist Phill Wilson, spoken word artist Juba Kalamka and cultural critic Herman Gray.

Also recommended: Tongues Untied (Gay Verse), poems by Dirg Aaab-Richards, Craig G Harris, Essex Hemphill, Isaac Johnson & Assotto Saint; In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology, edited by Joseph Beam and Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men, edited by Essex Hemphill."
Marlon kills the silence!
Sam Jennings | Orlando, Fl USA | 09/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I always feel better about being Black and gay after viewing TONGUES UNTIED."
Great movie
Mecca Egypt | Gardena, CA United States | 01/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I could identify with many of the thoughts, poems and portrayals in the movie. Being in the life, I could certainly see where they were coming from. They talked about everything from going to white clubs, the art of snapping, vouging (it never died, ..., we started it and we're still doing it). This movie is just great. If you're a black gay /SGL/ homosexual/ whatever-you- wanna-deem-yourself male you MUST watch this movie. I love this film. It'll make you think and laugh and make you proud to be who YOU are."