All in Dazed

2018 was a remarkable year for queer cinema. We’ve enjoyed Oscar-winning trans narratives that inspire and energise with A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantástica); powerfully intimate documentaries about queerness past and present with McQueen, Studio 54, Susanne Bartsch: On Top and Shakedown; breakout indie hits with The Miseducation Of Cameron Post and Rafiki; and even blockbuster teen rom-coms with Love, Simon. How will 2019 fare?

In 2018, the cinema feels like a more precious space than ever. How many other places do we have in the world where we go to sit, in the dark, with our attention entirely transfixed on one thing for at least an hour? In fact, how many spaces do we have where there’s a social contract that we all put our phones away? As a sanctuary of escapism from endless newsfeeds, the cinema is where we took refuge this year. And thank God we did, because it was a great year for film.

Once dominated by bros shouting over one another about sports, or straight, white comics making jokes about ‘the missus’, podcasting has since blossomed into a safe space for queer people to spotlight fascinating stories from the LGBTQ community. With humour, artistry and empathy, queer podcasters are championing the people and the movements that have shaped our shared history.

Born and raised in Bäretswil, Switzerland, a sleepy town nestled between the Glatt and Töss Valleys, Susanne Bartsch rejected the pastoral, “hausfrau life” that was planned for girls in her village in favour of parties and punk music when she moved to London in 1979, aged just 17. There she discovered Vivienne Westwood, Leigh Bowery and milliner Stephen Jones, falling in with a crowd of musicians and creatives which included Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren amongst others. Several years later she moved again, resettling in New York, bringing her favourite British designers with her, opening an eponymous avant-garde fashion boutique in central SoHo. When the economy began to slow in the late 80s, Susanne took her menagerie of costumes and couture to the basement of the Chelsea Hotel for her first party in 1986 at Savage. From that moment, her life’s work has been spent creating moments of safety and self-expression for the queer and disenfranchised. Constructing fleeting, overnight reveries from Paris to Tokyo, Susanne and her parties have helped propel performers and designers like RuPaul, Amanda Lepore and Marc Jacobs onto a global stage, crowning her Warhol’s heir and “Mother Teresa in a glitter G-string” in the process.

Tonight, October 10, Channel 4 will premiere the first episode of its new dramedy The Bisexual. The show is written by, directed by, and stars Iranian-American filmmaker Desiree Akhavan – creator of Appropriate Behaviour and The Miseducation of Cameron Post – and is set in London. The show is also a very rare screen-stealing moment for bisexuals, who, let’s be honest, don’t get the best deal when it comes to media representation. To celebrate this moment of visibility, five queer Dazed writers sat down to watch the first episode and write about what they took away from it.

Foreshadowing the opioid epidemic currently tearing through present-day America, 1980s Detroit was caught in the grip of a deadly and far-reaching crack crisis. In the midst of an era defined by bloody turf wars, crippling social disarray and widespread police corruption a bizarre urban legend began to emerge – that of a skinny, teenage kingpin better known as ‘White Boy Rick.’ Appointed the mastermind behind one of the city’s largest drug organisations, Richard Wershe was arrested in 1988, aged just seventeen. Thirty years later he’s still behind bars, imprisoned under Michigan’s draconian 650 Lifer law remaining, until recently, the only one of 200 individuals still serving a life sentence without parole for a non-violent drug offence.

The epicentre of 70s hedonism, Studio 54 became a monumental magnet for beautiful stars, casual sex, and mounds of cocaine. A den of excess that defined its own rules by welcoming the ostracized, the queer, and the fabulous, the nightclub enshrined itself as an enduring and  contradictory symbol of openness and exclusivity. Chronicling the rise and fall of the most talked-about club in history, Matt Tyrnauer’s latest documentary Studio 54 tells the story of two best friends from Brooklyn, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, who conquered New York City only to have it crumble before their eyes. Combining never before seen footage with brutally honest interviews, Studio 54 is a parade of colour, creativity and celebrity which pulls back the curtain on the club’s hidden history.

Set in the tight-knit communities and pastoral landscapes of Jersey’s coastal towns and villages, Beast is an intelligent, gripping and emotionally rich psychological thriller which unfolds with dramatic and unpredictable precision. The film follows Moll – a young woman stifled in an oppressive home, ruled by an uncompromising matriarch – as she gradually begins to assert her independence, detangling herself from her dysfunctional family with the help of an enticing and dangerous outsider. Starved of emotional oxygen, Moll’s companion offers hope for a newly emancipated life, until a slew of brutal murders smothers the island under a pall of fear and suspicion. 

One of the largest and most significant celebrations of queer cinema in Europe, the 32nd edition of acclaimed LGBTQ film festival Flare, returns to the BFI Southbank from 21st March to 1st April this year. Featuring a powerful, thought-provoking and eclectic mix of features, shorts, discussions, talks, workshops and club nights, this year’s festival reflects on themes of family, identity, displacement and disability, whilst also exploring the way film has refined and shaped our understanding of HIV/AIDS over the decades. 

When Marina suddenly loses Orlando, her lover and friend twenty years her senior, her identity as a trans-woman sees her ostracised from the family, shut-out of Orlando’s funeral and targeted with suspicion and contempt by the authorities. Pushing back against a community which views her existence as an aberration and a perversion, Orlando’s death reawakens an instinctive drive in Marina to assert herself as a complex, strong, forthright and fantastic woman.

Speaking to Michael Blyth, programmer for the BFI’s Flare Festival, we’ve pulled together a list of witty, dark and touching films to look forward to in 2018 that delve deeper into the trans-experience, explore queerness in the context of strictly religious communities, challenge conversion therapies, focus on the fringes of sexuality and gender, and celebrate LGBT socio-political activism.

Throughout 2017 we’ve seen widening social divides as our beliefs become more entrenched, and the stories we see and share become increasingly tailored to our interests. Political unrest has been catalysed by erratic, and frustratingly binary approaches to nuanced social, economic and international issues, and, whilst some journalistic institutions have been attacked, undermined for the way they seek to challenge authority, others have begun to thrive in a new age of misinformation. Throughout it all, a host of insightful and necessary documentaries have catalogued these changes, reflecting this new set of preoccupations back at us, working to inform viewers about the changing status quo whilst simultaneously providing a platform for marginalised communities to raise their voice above the din.

A thoughtful, slow-burning study of sexuality and self-awareness, Beach Rats follows Frankie as he seeks to escape the bleakness of his family’s situation through late-night gay chatrooms, disguised cam shows and anonymous hook-ups.

Scoring both fame and widespread critical acclaim with his iPhone-shot Tangerine, Sean Baker returns with The Florida Project, a touching portrait of childhood innocence set against the backdrop of America’s failing economy. 

Based on André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name, Call Me By Your Name is a queer coming-of-age love story that’s as languorous and seductive as its North Italian setting. Directed by This Is Love and A Bigger Splash’s Luca Guadagnino, the film follows Elio as he struggles to navigate first-time feelings of lust, longing and same-sex desire brought on by the arrival of his father’s new research assistant, Oliver.

David France has spent much of his adult life preserving, sharing and celebrating the defining moments of LGBT history. His seminal 2012 documentary about the AIDS epidemic, How To Survive A Plague, picked up awards at film festivals across the globe, including a Sundance, Emmy and Oscar nomination. His latest feature, a Netflix Original, chronicles the extraordinary life and death of Marsha P Johnson.

With the release of the eagerly anticipated sequel Blade Runner 2049 just around the corner, we spoke to Rhidian Davis, curator of the BFI’s Days Of Fear And Wonder and Ian Brookes, author of Film Noir: A Critical Introduction, to find out more how film noir influenced the Blade Runner’s darkness and why it’s integral to the film’s lasting success.

Creator of two critically acclaimed web-series - The Slope and F To Seventh - both of which use sarcasm and satire to tease apart the complexities of pre-middle age, sexuality, gender and what it means to find your ‘old-fashioned lesbianism’ has been left behind; Ingrid Jungermann’s first feature film Women Who Kill is a wickedly dry, queer, thriller-comedy.

Francis Lee’s debut feature film God’s Own Country, is a frank and unsentimental portrait of masculinity, loneliness, love and same-sex desire that pushes far beyond a simplistic, coming-out narrative. Set in the sublime, yet unforgivingly isolated Yorkshire Dales, the picture has scooped numerous awards at the Sundance, Berlin and Edinburgh film festivals for it’s pregnant silences and viscerally honest depiction of rural farming life.