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Between the Sheets, In the Streets: Queer, Lesbian, Gay Documentary

Chris Holmlund
Cynthia Fuchs
Volume: 1
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Between the Sheets, In the Streets
    Book Description:

    From film festivals to university campuses, from private homes to first-run theaters, people everywhere are viewing and discussing gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, and transgender films and videos. Between the Sheets, In the Streets considers these videos and films, testifying to the unavoidable connections between sexuality (the sheets) and activism (the streets) for all who identify as gay, lesbian, or queer in the 1990s. Contributors: Chris Cagle, Linda Dittmar, Lynda Goldstein, Ronald Gregg, Janet Jakobsen, Lynda McAfee, Kathleen McHugh, Beverly Seckinger, Marc Siegel, Chris Straayer, Erika Suderburg, Thomas Waugh, and Justin Wyatt.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8727-5
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    We begin with this statement by lesbian experimental filmmaker Su Friedrich because we find it exemplary in two senses, typical and paradigmatic.¹ Noteworthy, we feel, is Friedrich’s catholic appreciation of both documenting and storytelling. Significant too is her uncoupling, in 1989, of identity (and not just lesbian or gay identity) from any particular aesthetic. As we and other contributors toBetween the Sheets, In the Streetswill argue, the desire to acknowledge, challenge, and expand conventional ways of seeing that Friedrich expresses here characterizes many contemporary queer/lesbian/gay films and videos, much recent criticism, and some earlier homosexual work as well.²...


    • 1 Queer Representation and Oregon’s 1992 Anti-Gay Ballot Measure: Measuring the Politics of Mainstreaming
      (pp. 15-29)

      While I was attending the University of Oregon in the early 1990s, I enjoyed the freedom of a safe, supportive space to study gay and lesbian history and theory and was able to incorporate this queer scholarship along with my own experiences as a gay white male into my film studies teaching and writing. This sense of safety was short-lived.

      In 1992 the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA), a local conservative Christian political action committee, submitted the anti-gay Ballot Measure 9 to the voters. Measure 9 would have amended the state constitution to prevent state, regional, and local governments from “promoting,”...

    • 2 Imaging the Queer South: Southern Lesbian and Gay Documentary
      (pp. 30-45)

      “Southern lesbian and gay documentary,” like many categories, presents practical difficulties and political hazards. Notably, the term is somewhat of a neologism, christening a new cinematic genre for which there exist very few examples. Part of its difficulty, in fact, lies in the instability of “the South” as an analytic concept: Does the term refer to documentaries by lesbians or gay men currently living in the South, or who have ever lived in the South? To those about the lives, cultures, or experiences of Southern lesbians and gays? Or perhaps to documentaries with a particular inherent aesthetic? Even to imagine...

    • 3 Real/ Young/ TV Queer
      (pp. 46-68)

      Self-identified queer, gay, lesbian, and transgendered youth appear infrequently, if at all, in American “mainstream” television documentary. In the televised nineties repressive parameters are being redrawn slightly, bent a bit to enfold, co-opt or accommodate a previously wallflowered sexual minority. Documentary television is a litmus test of positioning, acceptance, and representation—a charting of how queer images, for so long sewn into the hems of various cultural productions, are revealed. We are in a brief period in which queerness as fashion or queerness as a required demographic core sample occupies heretofore ignored representational space. The straight “teen” market and its...


    • 4 Of Hags and Crones: Reclaiming Lesbian Desire for the Trouble Zone of Aging
      (pp. 71-90)

      Aging, a biological process readily available to the viewing gaze, has long functioned as an overdetermined signifier signaling physical and economic incapacity, social marginality, and impending death. The bodies that inspire such narratives are seen as ravaged—stiff-jointed, gnarled, and decaying—rather than changing. Situated at the crossroads of metaphysical and biological crises, aging functions in our culture as a visible register of life’s most terrifying outcome. Yet this very doomsday quality makes the process of aging a barely acknowledged aspect of ordinary life and accounts for the marginal place of old people in most media situations, including documentary films....

    • 5 Documentary That Dare/Not Speak Its Name: Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures
      (pp. 91-106)

      In September 1963, Jonas Mekas and his associates at the Film-Makers’ Coop crashed the annual Flaherty Seminar in Brattleboro, Vermont. That year the seminar was hosting a cinema verité retrospective featuring work by documentarists who had previously received Mekas’s praise for their role in inaugurating a new cinematic language. But for Mekas, cinema verité was no longer capable of grasping the complexities of daily life. He therefore attempted to intervene in the seminar with Jack Smith’sFlaming Creaturesand Ken Jacobs’sBlonde Cobra,“two pieces of the impure, naughty, and ‘uncinematic’ cinema that is being made now in New York.”²...

    • 6 Walking on Tippy Toes: Lesbian and Gay Liberation Documentary of the Post-Stonewall Period 1969-84
      (pp. 107-124)

      “The famine is over.” Uttering these portentous words in 1980 from my podium as a gay movement film critic, I declared the start of a new era of visibility and productivity in lesbian and gay film.¹ I recently sifted through a decade’s worth of my once urgent dissections of the state of gay cinema (c. 1976-85), denunciations of various capitalist-homophobe conspiracies from within and without and overstated celebrations of each new “breakthrough,” and was reminded of how desperate it felt in those days before there were queer film and video festivals in every city and twenty-year-old queers with video cameras...


    • 7 When Autobiography Meets Ethnography and Girl Meets Girl: The “Dyke Docs” of Sadie Benning and Su Friedrich
      (pp. 127-143)

      I begin with this quote from Bill Nichols’s “‘Getting to Know You . . .’: Power, Knowledge, and the Body”¹ because the questions he raises haunt the terms around which my essay revolves: autobiography, ethnography, and “dyke doc.” How are “unique,” “typical,” “particular,” and “general” to be linked to “self”—the basis of autobiography? Or to “subculture” and “culture”—the primary foci of ethnography? What of “lesbian” and the more militant “dyke,” especially when they are used as adjectives, as in “lesbian autobiography,” “lesbian ethnography,” or “dyke documentary”? For me, and also for Nichols, posing such questions has both practical...

    • 8 Love, Death, and Videotape: Silverlake Life
      (pp. 144-157)

      The first time I sawSilverlake Life: The View from Herewas in April 1993 at the Vista theater in Los Angeles (minutes from Silverlake), and I still remember it vividly. It may have been the first time I saw my friend Mark cry. In fact, by the end of the film, everyone in the audience seemed to be wrestling with sniffles and tears, as napkins snatched from the snack bar were passed down the aisles and shared among strangers. When Mark Massi picks up the camcorder moments after his longtime partner Tom Joslin has died, and begins speaking to...

    • 9 Autobiography, Home Movies, and Derek Jarman’s History Lesson
      (pp. 158-172)

      The points of connection between the documentary film and the home movie are numerous and problematic. While the home movie does “document” a family or social event, it prompts a host of questions that complicate our understanding of the documentary form. Among the many “problem” areas are the unique production and reception situations represented by the home movie (usually made by a family member, often under imperfect technical circumstances, for other members of the family), the degree of mediation and simulation within the home movie (staging events and reactions directly for the camera), and the sociological significance of the form...


    • 10 Getting into Lesbian Shorts: White Spectators and Performative Documentaries by Makers of Color
      (pp. 175-189)

      A friend wrote after the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in 1994 that she simply “couldn’t get into these damn lesbian shorts.” I laughed aloud at her annoyance with the programming, which simultaneously evoked Jesse Helms’s calling Roberta Achtenberg a “damn lesbian,”² frustrated sexual desire, and unavailable tickets to sold-out programs, however unintended these meanings might have been. What she had meant was that her ability to “get into” the shorts was thwarted by the low production values, murky visual and audio quality, and amateur performances — no matter how aesthetically justified and financially motivated. Combined with loopy,...

    • 11 “Hard to Believe”: Reality Anxieties in Without You I’m Nothing, Paris Is Burning, and “Dunyementaries”
      (pp. 190-206)

      The film version ofWithout You I’m Nothing(John Boskovich 1990) opens on Sandra Bernhard, alone and focused on her own reflection. Staring into a dressing table mirror, she twists individual strands of her hair, snipping precisely at stray hairs with her scissors. The camera circles her, pauses on her profile. She waits a beat, then looks away from the mirror and into the camera. Slowly, she speaks: “You know, I have one of those really hard to believe faces. It’s sensual. It’s sexual. At times, it’s just downright hard to believe.”

      The simplicity of this introduction is deceptive in...

    • 12 Transgender Mirrors: Queering Sexual Difference
      (pp. 207-223)

      Since the invention of homosexuality more than a century ago, professional and lay “audiences” alike have situated gender as its primary marker—as both what marks it and what it marks. From Weimar Germany’s “third sex” to second-wave feminism’s “lesbian-woman,” gay men and lesbians have been measured in terms of their femininity and masculinity, which then have laid claims on their femaleness and maleness. Although gender displaced sexual orientation in these crude schemes, it also provided a primary visual semiotics through which queers communicated their sexualities. The present essay also reverses the signifying chain: rather than an en-gendering look at...

    • 13 Irony and Dissembling: Queer Tactics for Experimental Documentary
      (pp. 224-240)

      Appearances deceive. “Queer” cultural identity and the problematics of contemporary documentary converge on this (platonic) point.¹ The phenomenon of heterosexual presumption (one is straight until proven otherwise) frequently places queer subjects in a position that mimics and inverts the structure of dramatic irony. Presumed straight, the queer subject becomes an actor in a scene staged by another, by another’s cultural imaginary. Yet in this scene, the actor knows more, is more than her or his audience, more than his or her culture imagines. A knowledge effect, which undermines the assumed coherence of identity as such, arises from the dynamics of...

  9. Film and Videography
    (pp. 241-264)

    This anthology is committed to questioning the boundaries of what might be considered documentary, queer, lesbian, or gay, yet filmographies and bibliographies tend to do quite the opposite. Through a series of inclusions and exclusions, these lists can create and fix the very parameters one seeks to interrogate. For example, what does one do with the works of Bruce Weber, Barbara Hammer, Derek Jarman, Midi Onodera, or Sadie Benning? Do you include all their work, some of it, none of it? Which works do you call documentaries? Which ones do you call queer, lesbian, or gay? Do rightwing, anti-gay pieces,...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 265-268)
  11. Index
    (pp. 269-274)