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Tongues Untied

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Marlon Riggs
Produced by Brian Freeman
Starring Brian Freeman
Essex Hemphill
Running time 55 mins
Country USA
Language English

Marlon Riggs’ 1989 semi-documentary film Tongues Untied seeks, in its author's words to, "...shatter the nation's brutalising silence on matters of sexual and racial difference." The film blends documentary footage with personal account and fiction in an attempt to depict the specificity of black gay identity. The "silence" referred to throughout the film is that of black gay men, who are unable to express themselves because of the prejudices of white and black heterosexual society.

The narrative structure of Tongues Untied is both interesting and unconventional. Besides including documentary footage detailing North American black gay culture, Riggs also tells of his own experiences as a gay man. These include the realising of his sexual identity and of coping with the deaths of many of his friends to AIDS. Other elements within the film include footage of the civil rights movement and clips of Eddie Murphy performing a homophobic stand-up routine.

At the time of its release, the film was considered controversial because of its frank portrayal of gay sexuality. Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan cited Tongues Untied as an example of how President Bush was using taxpayer's money to fund "pornographic art". In his defence, Riggs stated that, "Implicit in the much overworked rhetoric of community standards is the assumption of only one central community (patriarchal, heterosexual and usually white) and only one overarching cultural standard ditto."

Further reading

Black American Cinema, Mathia Diawara.
Resolutions: Contemporary video practices, Michael Renov and Erika Suderburg.
Racial Difference and the Homoerotic imaginary, Kobena Mercer

External links

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