30 Days of Queer Cinema - Day 7 | Tongues Untied

After the success of relatively more straightforward documentary, Ethnic Notions, Tongues Untied saw Marlon Riggs truly blossom into his own artist, delivering a poetic exploration of what it means to be Black gay man in America in the 1980s. 

Here, Riggs speaks in a clear voice, celebrating his queerness and his blackness and how those two identities intersect and fuel each other. It's at once joyous, celebratory, and sobering, examining not only the unique joys of Riggs' life but its challenges in a world that seems determined not to understand him. It's a work of unerring beauty, fusing the poetry of  Essex Hemphill with the beauty of black bodies intertwining, celebrating a uniquely marginalized identity and taking pride in its exultation. 

Still, Tongues Untied pulls no punches in its depiction of the prejudices faced by Black gay men at the height of the AIDS crisis. Riggs acknowledges the revolutionary act of being a Black gay man in a country built on racism and actively marginalizing the LGBT community, while examining his own place within that community as a Black man. It's  a film that is consistently vibrant and alive, humming with the sheer joy of embracing one's own identity while exploring the challenges that identity presents in America. It is a bracing statement of self-identity and a towering work of self-expression and self-reflection, beautifully capturing a time and place yet reverberating through the decades as a work by an artist boldly stating his Black queerness. Tongues Untied is an essential queer text and a radical, uncompromising act of pride.


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