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Marlon Riggs, with assistance from other gay Black men, especially poet Essex Hemphill, celebrates Black men loving Black men as a revolutionary act. The film intercuts footage of Hemphill reciting his poetry, Riggs telling the story of his growing up, scenes of men in social intercourse and dance, and various comic riffs, including a visit to the "Institute of Snap!thology," where men take lessons in how to snap their fingers: the sling snap, the point snap, the diva snap. The film closes with obituaries for victims of AIDS and archival footage of the civil rights movement placed next to footage of Black men marching in a gay pride parade. Written by
"Black men loving black men is a revolutionary act." It is also a documentary act which is straightforward, polemic, complex, with heart, with gusto. With diction that fights affliction, this is its basic weapon of beauty, as if its undercurrent was "beauty is no booty for the enemy".
For me, a gay white male from Greece, this documentary, coming from my oblique point of view (oblique because being gay in Greece, despite its, rather ironic, pederastic tradition, is quite apart with the issues and the culture of the film, yet the sense of segregation and tradition rings familiar), descriptively it feels like a star-crossed breed of gospel and guerrilla video art.
Its veins are pounding deep; being a writer and translator, listening to such keen, sexy, visceral rhythms by the imposing figure of Essex Hemphill, was a revelation with an obsessive glow.
And Marlon Briggs' narration, spacious and incisive, unflinching and embracing, with an amazing sense of building-up, leaves me bewildered, more so for appearing somewhat tuned down at first.
For anyone liking the feeling of words doing as they want to do and as they have to do, as Gertrude Stein admirably put it, this is a definite watch.
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