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Promotional poster
Directed by Derek Jarman
Paul Humfress
Produced by Howard Malin
James Whaley
Written by Paul Humfress
Derek Jarman
James Whaley
Starring Leonardo Treviglio
Barney James
Richard Warwick
Neil Kennedy
Music by Brian Eno
Andrew Thomas Wilson
Cinematography Peter Middleton
Editing by Paul Humfress
Distributed by BBC Worldwide
Release date(s) 1976
Running time 86 min.
Country UK
Language Latin
Budget $45,000

Sebastiane is a controversial 1976 film written and directed by Derek Jarman and Paul Humfress. It portrays the events of the life of Saint Sebastian, including his iconic martyrdom by arrows. Most of the controversy surrounding the film derives from the homoeroticism portrayed between the soldiers. It is significant for being the first film to be entirely recorded accurately in Latin, which went as far as the translation of some dialogue into vulgar Latin.

The film is set in a Roman military outpost. The intensely homosocial environment allows the men to engage with one another physically and sexually. The film is set in the era of Diocletian, nearly two millennia before the West coined the word "homosexual" (such a category simply did not exist in Sebastiane's world), therefore it is highly misleading to suggest that the Roman soldiers' male-to-male desires are the result of an absence of women. The men freely and naturally develop passionate, romantic relationships with one another. It is this intensity, and the remoteness of the outpost, which engenders jealousy, obsession, and the almost inevitable violent outcome when a centurion develops a relentless desire for Sebastian, who rejects his advances. A very similar situation was examined in Claire Denis's 1999 film Beau Travail.

To be shown on British Television, and indeed to gain an 18 rating from the BBFC, the censors required an excision of footage from a love scene in which an erection is very briefly glimpsed. The erection itself was unacceptable to the BBFC. When submitting the film to the Board, Jarman quietly arranged for the screening to be shown in the wrong aspect ratio; this effectively masked the bottom of the image, and resulted in the erection itself being removed from sight. After receiving the 18 rating, the film was publicly premiered in the correct aspect ratio. Jarman had effectively hoodwinked the censors, as he describes in his autobiographical Dancing Ledge. A documentary called Sex and the Censors shown in the 1980s featured a segment on Sebastiane. A mistake caused the scene to be shown behind one of the interviewees[1].



Actor Character
Barney James Severus
Neil Kennedy Maximus
Leonardo Treviglio Sebastian
Richard Warwick Justin
Donald Dunham Claudius
Daevid Finbar Julian
Ken Hicks Adrian
Lindsay Kemp Dancer
Steffano Massari Marius
Janusz Romanov Anthony
Gerald Incandela Leopard Boy
Robert Medley Emperor Diocletian


  1. ^ Review of DVD release with some background information.


  1. Trivia at IMDB

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sebastiane is a historical drama about the martyrdom of Sebastian who is a Christian saint. This movie was produced by Derek Jarman.

Sebastiane is entirely in Latin with English subtitles.


Maximus: Roll up, roll up! The Vestal Virgins versus the Sabine women. A glorious rape in colour.
Maximus: Here comes Messalina. Girls, tend your fires. Or she'll be in by the back door.
Maximus: I don't know why you fancy boys so much, Anthony. You're worse than a Greek. They're okay for a quick one. But I can't wait for Rome and a real woman.


A vestal
Roman soldier: This is Boadicea.
Another Roman soldier: She is on top of Messalina.

Roman soldier: And now, Citizens of Rome. The terror of civilization, Maria Domus Alba. As heavy as Hannibal and leader of the Vestal Virgins. Oh, by Jove, she's in the arms of Sappho.
Another Roman soldier: Sappho's got her by the tits. Roll her over, Sappho!

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