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Directed by Marlon Riggs • 1989 • United States
Marlon Riggs’s landmark documentary uses poetry, personal testimony, rap, and performance (featuring poet Essex Hemphill and others) to describe the homophobia and racism faced by Black gay men. The stories are often devastating: the man refused entry to a gay bar because of his skin color; the college student left bleeding on the sidewalk after a hate crime; the loneliness and isolation of a drag queen. Yet they also powerfully affirm the Black gay male experience through protest marches, smoky bars, “snap diva,” and Vogue dancers. Made, in Riggs’s own words, to “shatter this nation’s brutalizing silence on matters of sexual and racial difference,” TONGUES UNTIED remains, three decades after its controversy-inciting release, as urgent and vital as ever.