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 ... See full summary »
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Ross McElwee Jr.
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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
Marlon Riggs' documentary "Tongues Untied" left a brief, but definitive impact on me. This documentary about gay African-American men reveals several poets, preachers, activists, and scholars. There is no narration in "Tongues Untied". Instead, all the dialogue is spoken in philosophical rhymes and poems. The documentary showcases, and even full-on exposes its praise for the black homosexual lifestyle, in an artistic and flamboyant fashion.
As a filmmaker myself, I was drawn into how Riggs was able to explain the persecution of homosexuals without having a sit-down interview, and instead uses stand-up performances, poetry, and symbolism to prove his point. From the confines of a gay black man's isolation and loneliness, to the exciting experiences of the San Francisco "Castro" district, Riggs took the audience to some fascinating, and often times deplorable world that gay black men face every day of their lives.
I was a little annoyed by the pacing of the film. There were some parts that had me yawning. But "Tongues Untied" sends a powerful message of tolerance, culture, and tradition from a filmmaker who is sadly no longer with us. This documentary captured my attention, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
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