“Raiding the archives to piece together a century of gay experiences, Daisy Asquith’s labor of love Queerama is both a heartening celebration of progress and a cautionary reminder of all the broken lives and lonely hearts trampled along the way." - Screen Daily
This kaleidoscopic essay film looks at decades of Queer representation in British media and popular culture to trace a chronicle of prejudice, oppression, and misconception, and offer a reflection on the evolution of public acceptance.
With rare access to the vast archives of the British Film Institute, Daisy Asquith delved into a century of film, TV, and news footage to excavate the anachronisms and platitudes that long shaped common perceptions of queer people and their lives, as well as the subliminal expressions of queer identity, fear, and desire hiding in plain sight within popular media.
The film also critically reflects the political dimensions of a century of gay liberation. Starting with the first gay relationship on film released in 1919, “Different From the Others”, the film weaves newsreel and amateur film footage from the ‘20s and ‘30s, subtextual references in ‘40s cinema, and footage of prosecutions of gay men for ‘gross indecency’ in the ‘50s, early gay rights marches and decriminalization in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Pride movement and AIDS crisis in the ‘80s and ‘90s, as well as representations of sexual liberation in the ‘00s, and chemsex, gay parenting, and the marriage campaign in recent years.
The result is a sobering and contextualized montage. Heartfelt testimonials of shunned homosexuals in the ‘60s are placed alongside transgressive, unapologetic art films of the 70s and 80s. The film pays particular tribute to the works of Derek Jarman and Terence Davies, the plight of Oscar Wilde, and the words of Quentin Crisp, which often appear in stark contrast to the discriminatory voices of the not-to-distant past.
A perfect example of how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, Queerama accumulates into an emotional narrative that documents as well as celebrates the varied lives of diverse queer people across the past century.