"New Queer Cinema" is a term first coined by the academic B. Ruby Rich in Sight & Sound magazine in 1992 to define and describe a movement in queer-themed independent filmmaking in the early 1990s. The term developed from use of the word queer in academic writing in the 1980s and 1990s as an inclusive way of describing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender identity and experience, and also defining a form of sexuality that was fluid and subversive of traditional understandings of sexuality. Also, the major film studio to discuss these issues was aptly named New Line Cinema with its Fine Line Cinema division. Since 1992, the phenomenon has also been described by various other academics and has been used to describe several other films released since the 1990s. Films of the New Queer Cinema movement typically share certain themes, such as the rejection of heteronormativity and the lives of LGBT protagonists living on the fringe of society.
Susan Hayward states that Queer cinema existed for decades before it was given its official label, such as with the films of French creators Jean Cocteau (Le sang d'un poète in 1934) and Jean Genet (Un chant d'amour in 1950). Queer cinema is associated with avant-garde and underground film (e.g., Andy Warhol's 1960s films).  In avant-garde film, there are lesbian filmmakers who laid the heritage for Queer cinema, notably Ulrike Ottinger, Chantal Akerman and Pratibha Parmar. An important influence on the development of Queer cinema was Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1970s and 1980s European art films, which added a "gay and queer sensibility" to film (e.g., Querelle from 1982, based on Genet's novel). Another influence on Queer cinema was the Brazilian filmmaker Héctor Babenco, whose film Kiss of the Spider Woman from 1985 depicted a man in prison who is seduced by his cellmate.
The identification of Queer cinema probably emerged in the mid-1980s through the influence of Queer theory, which aims to "challenge and push further debates on gender and sexuality" developed by feminist theory and "confuse binary essentialisms around gender and sexual identity, expose their limitations", and depict the blurring of these roles and identities. Queer cinema filmmakers sometimes made films in genres that were typically considered mainstream, then subverting the conventions by depicting the "question of pleasure" and celebrating excess, or by re-adding homosexual themes or historical elements where they had been erased through straightwashing (e.g., in Derek Jarman's historical film Edward II (1991)). Queer cinema filmmakers call for a "multiplicity of voices and sexualities" and, rather than having one unifying aesthetic, they have a "collection of different aesthetics." The issue of "lesbian invisibility" has been raised in Queer cinema, as more funding goes to gay male filmmakers than lesbian directors, as is the case with the heterosexual/mainstream film industry and as such, much of queer cinema focuses on the "construction of male desire."
In her 1992 article, Rich commented on the strong gay and lesbian presence on the previous year's film festival circuit and coined the phrase "New Queer Cinema" to describe a growing movement of similarly themed films being made by gay and lesbian independent filmmakers, chiefly in North America and England. Rich developed her theory in the Village Voice newspaper, describing films that were radical in form and aggressive in their presentation of sexual identities, which challenged both the status quo of heterosexual definition and resisted promoting "positive" images of lesbians and gay men that had been advocated by the gay liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s. In the films of New Queer Cinema, the protagonists and narratives were predominantly LGBT, but were presented invariably as outsiders and renegades from the rules of conventional society who embraced radical and unconventional gender roles and ways of life, frequently casting themselves as outlaws or fugitives.
Drawing on postmodernist and poststructuralist academic theories of the 1980s, the New Queer Cinema presented human identity and sexuality as socially constructed, and therefore fluid and changeable, rather than fixed. In the world of New Queer Cinema, sexuality is often a chaotic and subversive force, which is alienating to and often brutally repressed by dominant heterosexual power structures. Films in the New Queer Cinema movement frequently featured explicit and unapologetic depictions of same-sex sexual activity, and presented same-sex relationships that reconfigured traditional heterosexual notions of family and marriage. While not all identifying with a specific political movement, New Queer Cinema films were invariably radical, as they sought to challenge and subvert assumptions about identity, gender, class, family and society.
The 1991 documentary Paris is Burning introduced audiences to yet another subcultural realm. Director Jennie Livingston captured the realities of New York's drag balls and houses, and of the non-white people who occupied these spaces. This was an arguably underground world with which many Americans were unfamiliar. Aesthetic excellence and flamboyance were crucial in drag performances and competitions. Stylized vogue dancing was also exhibited as central to the drag experience, notably influencing the artistry of pop icon Madonna. New Queer Cinema figures like Livingston encouraged viewers to suspend their ignorance, and enjoy the diversity of humanity.
The films also frequently referenced the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, often commenting on the failure of the Ronald Reagan administration to respond to the AIDS epidemic and the social stigma experienced by the gay community. Given the relative invisibility of references to AIDS in mainstream Hollywood filmmaking, the work of New Queer Cinema was hailed by the gay community as a welcome correction to a history of under-representation and stereotyping of gay and lesbian people.
Among the films cited by Rich were Todd Haynes's Poison (1991), Laurie Lynd's RSVP (1991), Isaac Julien's Young Soul Rebels (1991), Derek Jarman's Edward II (1991), Tom Kalin's Swoon (1992), and Gregg Araki's The Living End (1992). All the films feature explicitly gay and lesbian protagonists and subjects; explicit and unapologetic depictions of or references to gay sex; and a confrontational and often antagonistic approach towards heterosexual culture.
These directors were making their films at a time when the gay community was facing new challenges from the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and the conservative political wave brought on by the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the United States and the government of Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom. Jarman himself was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, and died in 1994 at the age of 52. Jarman's public promoting of gay rights and equality have established him as an influential activist within the LGBT community.
Queer theory and politics were emerging topics in academic circles, with proponents arguing that gender and sexual categories such as homosexual and heterosexual were historical social constructs, subject to change with cultural attitudes. Rich noted that many films were beginning to represent sexualities which were unashamedly neither fixed nor conventional, and coined the phrase "New Queer Cinema".
Beginning in the 2010s, a number of LGBT filmmakers, including Rose Troche and Travis Mathews, identified a newer trend in LGBT filmmaking, in which the influence of New Queer Cinema is evolving toward more universal audience appeal.
Rich, the originator of the phrase New Queer Cinema, has identified the emergence in the late 2000s of LGBT-themed mainstream films such as Brokeback Mountain, Milk, and The Kids Are All Right as a key moment in the evolution of the genre, while both Troche and Mathews singled out Stacie Passon's 2013 Concussion, a film about marital infidelity in which the central characters' lesbianism is a relatively minor aspect of a story whose primary theme involves depicting the ways in which any long-term relationship risks becoming troubled and unfulfilling, regardless of its gender configuration, as a prominent example of the trend. The French film Blue Is the Warmest Colour, which won the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, has also been singled out as a notable example.
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Alexis Dos Santos (born 1974) is an Argentine film director and producer, screenwriter and editor. He has also shot a number of short and directed music videos. He is considered part of the New Queer Cinema movement.
Dos Santos studied in Buenos Aires and Barcelona before relocating to London in 1998, where he attended the National Film and Television School. He started filming short films like Meteoritos, Watching Planes, Axolotll, Snapshots and Sand.In 2006, he wrote and directed his debut long feature Glue (full title Glue - Historia adolescente en medio de la nada) about young musicians in drug use and sexual exploration. It won a number of prizes including the MovieZone Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) in 2007 In 2009, he directed Unmade Beds that was featured at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and at Febiofest 2010. The film was partially funded by the UK Film Council and was nominated for Grand Jury Prize - World Cinema / Dramatic in Sundance Festival. For the Cinema Reloaded project, in 2011 he directed the short film Random Strangers.Andrea Sperling
Andrea Sperling (born c. 1968/69) is an independent film producer based in Los Angeles. The films she has produced include Totally Fucked Up, But I'm a Cheerleader, D.E.B.S. and Itty Bitty Titty Committee and the Sundance Top Prize winning Like Crazy.B. Ruby Rich
B. Ruby Rich is an American scholar, critic of independent, Latin American, documentary, feminist, and queer films, and a professor of Film & Digital Media and Social Documentation (also known as "SocDoc") at UC Santa Cruz. Among her many contributions, she is known for coining the term New Queer Cinema. She is currently the editor of Film Quarterly, the scholarly film journal published by University of California Press. Her editorials are available free online at the Film Quarterly website.Craig Gilmore
Craig Gilmore (born 1968) is an American actor. He is most widely known for his roles in the New Queer Cinema films The Living End and Totally Fucked Up.
Since 2001, Gilmore has been singing and acting with Opera a la Carte, a Gilbert & Sullivan repertory troupe, and is currently described as their lead tenor.Curtis Harrington
Gene Curtis Harrington (September 17, 1926 – May 6, 2007) was an American film and television director whose work included experimental films, horror films, and episodic television. He is considered one of the forerunners of New Queer Cinema.Gregg Araki
Gregg Araki (born December 17, 1959) is an American filmmaker. He is noted for his heavy involvement with the New Queer Cinema movement. His film Kaboom (2010) was the first winner of the Cannes Film Festival Queer Palm.Laurie Lynd
Laurie Lynd (born May 19, 1959 in Toronto, Ontario) is a Canadian film and television director and screenwriter, best known as the director of the feature film Breakfast with Scot.In his early career, Lynd made the short films Together and Apart (1986) and RSVP (1991), the latter of which was cited by film critic B. Ruby Rich in her influential 1992 essay on the emergence of New Queer Cinema. He then attended the Canadian Film Centre, making the short film The Fairy Who Didn't Want to Be a Fairy Anymore (1992) and the feature film House (1995) while studying at that institution; he was also credited as the producer of John Greyson's CFC project The Making of Monsters.
After his graduation from the CFC, he concentrated primarily on television directing, including the television films Sibs and Open Heart, and episodes of Degrassi, Queer as Folk, I Was a Rat, Noah's Arc and Ghostly Encounters.
Breakfast with Scot, his second feature film, was released in 2007. His subsequent television work has included Forensic Factor, Baxter, Murdoch Mysteries, Good Witch, Schitt's Creek and The Adventures of Napkin Man.
In 2010 he released the short film Verona, which recast Romeo and Juliet as a romance between two gay university athletes from rival fraternities.In 2019 he released the documentary film Killing Patient Zero.Mark Christopher (director)
Mark Christopher (born July 8, 1963 in Fort Dodge, Iowa) is a screenwriter, and director most known for directing 54 (1998), starring Ryan Phillippe, Mike Meyers, Salma Hayek, Neve Campbell, and Mark Ruffalo.
Within the film community, he is better known for the success of the director's cut of the film that premiered at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival. With over 30 minutes of re-shoots cut out of the 1998 version, and over 40 minutes re-instated, the film was universally lauded by critics and hailed as a "jubilant resurrection" and "a lost gay classic." The story of the films destruction and resurrection was featured on New York magazine's Vulture.com website. and The Guardian and Elvis Mitchell's interview with Mark Christopher on KCRW's The Treatment.Christopher also directed three short films, all of them theatrically distributed: The Dead Boys Club (1992), an influential short of the New Queer Cinema wave as cited by B. Ruby Rich in her Sight & Sound article that defined the genre; Alkali, Iowa (1995), winner of the Teddy at the Berlin International Film Festival (1996); and Heartland, Strand Releasing (2007). He is also known for his television writing and creation of musical programming, including Real Life: The Musical that premiered on OWN in 2012.Mikey Waters
Michael Waters is a fictional character in Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho, portrayed by River Phoenix.
He is a sensitive, homeless hustler who suffers from narcolepsy, directly foiling his best friend, Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves), who is a type-A personality hustler from a rich, influential family. Mike, a vagabond searching for his mother, proclaims himself as a "connoisseur of roads" because he has been "tasting roads all [his] life."Mikey remains one of the defining characters of New Queer Cinema and, due to the impressive critical reception, is a crucial role in River Phoenix's success and influence as an actor. For example, Eric Alan Edwards, one of the film's directors of photography, said that River Phoenix "really wore the role" because "he looked like a street kid."Poison (film)
Poison is a 1991 American science fiction drama horror film written and directed by Todd Haynes and starring Edith Meeks, Larry Maxwell, Susan Gayle Norman, Scott Renderer, and James Lyons.
It is composed of three intercut stories that are partially inspired by the novels of Jean Genet. With its gay themes, Poison is considered an early entry in the New Queer Cinema movement. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 11, 1991. It was released in a limited release by Zeitgeist Films on April 5, 1991.Pussy Tourette
Pussy Tourette is the stage name for an American drag queen, composer and singer.
She is best known for her single "French Bitch", for which a music video/short film directed by Andrei Rozen was made and included in the film festival compilation DVD Boys' Shorts: The New Queer Cinema. The song is a comedic, high camp dance track about the duplicitous title character who "stole my man, ‘cause she felt the need to scratch an itch". There is a mild lyrical suggestion that the subject has had an overseas sex-change operation, though this must be inferred by the listener. The chorus is sung in Franglish and contains the wordplay, "Je suis oh-so-hot! Vous-voulez my twat, s'il vous plait?". The song was remixed for club play and was well received in gay venues.RSVP (1991 film)
RSVP is a Canadian short film, directed by Laurie Lynd and released in 1991. It was one of the films singled out by film critic B. Ruby Rich in her influential 1992 essay on the emergence of New Queer Cinema.Swoon (film)
Swoon is a 1992 independent film written and directed by Tom Kalin. It is an account of the 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder case, focusing more on the homosexuality of the killers than other films based on the case. It stars Daniel Schlachet as Loeb and Craig Chester as Leopold.
Along with the films of Todd Haynes, Gregg Araki and others, Swoon is identified as part of the New Queer Cinema.The Living End (film)
The Living End is a 1992 American comedy-drama film by Gregg Araki. Described by some critics as a "gay Thelma and Louise," the film is an early entry in the New Queer Cinema genre. The Living End was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992.Todd Haynes
Todd Haynes (; born January 2, 1961) is an American independent film director, screenwriter, and producer. He is considered a pioneer of the New Queer Cinema movement of filmmaking that emerged in the early 1990s.Haynes first gained public attention with his controversial short film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987), which chronicles singer Karen Carpenter's tragic life and death, using Barbie dolls as actors. Haynes had not obtained proper licensing to use the Carpenters' music, prompting a lawsuit from Richard Carpenter, whom the film portrayed in an unflattering light, banning the film's distribution. Superstar became a cult classic.Haynes' feature directorial debut, Poison (1991), a provocative, three-part exploration of AIDS-era queer perceptions and subversions, established him as a formidable talent and figure of a new transgressive cinema. Poison won the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize and is regarded as a seminal work of New Queer Cinema. Haynes received further acclaim for his second feature film Safe (1995), a symbolic portrait of a housewife who develops extreme allergic reactions to her suburban life. Safe was later voted the best film of the 1990s by The Village Voice Film Poll. Haynes' next feature, Velvet Goldmine (1998), is a tribute to the 1970s glam rock era, drawing heavily on the rock histories and mythologies of David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed. The film received the Special Jury Prize for Best Artistic Contribution at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design.
Haynes gained critical acclaim and a measure of mainstream success with his 2002 feature, Far from Heaven. Inspired by the cinematic language of the films of Douglas Sirk, Far From Heaven is a 1950s-set melodrama about a Connecticut housewife who discovers that her husband is gay and falls in love with her African-American gardener. The film received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Original Screenplay for Haynes. His fifth feature, I'm Not There (2007), marked another shift in direction. A nonlinear biopic, I'm Not There depicts various facets of Bob Dylan through seven fictionalized characters played by five actors and an actress. I'm Not There received critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Cate Blanchett. In 2011, Haynes directed and co-wrote Mildred Pierce, a five-hour mini-series for HBO, which garnered 21 Emmy Award nominations, winning five, as well as four Golden Globe Award nominations and a win for lead actress Kate Winslet.
In 2015, Haynes returned to the big screen with Carol, his sixth feature film and the first film not written by him. Based on Patricia Highsmith's seminal romance novel The Price of Salt, Carol is the story of a forbidden love affair between two women from different classes and backgrounds in early 1950s New York City. The film received critical acclaim and many accolades including a nomination for the Palme d'Or, six Academy Award nominations, five Golden Globe Award nominations, and nine BAFTA Award nominations.Todd Verow
Todd Verow (born November 11, 1966) is an American film director who now resides in New York City, New York. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design and the AFI Conservatory. Together with his creative partner, James Derek Dwyer, he formed Bangor Films in 1995. He was also the cinematographer for Jon Moritsugu's film Terminal USA (1993). He has been called a veteran of the New Queer Cinema.His numerous productions on digital video have led to his being called "once and future king of DV" by Film Threat. He is openly gay.Tom Kalin
Tom Kalin (born 1962) is a screenwriter, film director, producer, and professor of experimental film at European Graduate School in Saas-Fee.His debut feature, Swoon, is considered an integral part of the New Queer Cinema. In addition to his feature work, Kalin has created a number of short films, many of which are collected in the compilations Behold Goliath or The Boy With the Filthy Laugh, Third Known Nest and Tom Kalin Videoworks: Volume 2.
Much of Kalin's work touches on issues of homosexuality (both modern-day and historical) and AIDS. He was a member of two AIDS direct action groups, ACT UP and Gran Fury. His work has won much critical acclaim and garnered a number of awards and nominations, including honors from the Berlin International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Fest and a number of gay and lesbian film festivals. Kalin won the Gotham Awards Open Palm Award (for Swoon) and has been nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards.
Kalin's last project was Savage Grace, Savage Grace tells the story of the 1972 Barbara Daly Baekeland murder case and stars Julianne Moore as Baekeland.
Tom Kalin has taught graduate-level filmmaking classes at Columbia University School of the Arts, and is currently lecturing at the European Graduate School in Switzerland.
He is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow.Totally Fucked Up
Totally Fucked Up (censored title Totally F***ed Up in many references and publicity material) is a 1993 American drama film written and directed by Gregg Araki. The first installment of Araki's Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy, it is considered a seminal entry in the New Queer Cinema genre.
The film chronicles the dysfunctional lives of six gay adolescents who have formed a family unit and struggle to get along with each other and with life in the face of various major obstacles. Araki classified it as "a rag-tag story of the fag-and-dyke teen underground....a kinda cross between avant-garde experimental cinema and a queer John Hughes flick."Zero Patience
Zero Patience is a 1993 Canadian musical film written and directed by John Greyson. The film examines and refutes the urban legend of the alleged introduction of HIV to North America by a single individual, Gaëtan Dugas. Dugas, better known as Patient Zero, was tagged in the popular imagination with the blame in large measure because of Randy Shilts's history of the early days of the AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On (1987). The film tells its story against the backdrop of a romance between a time-displaced Sir Richard Francis Burton and the ghost of "Zero" (the character is not identified by Dugas' name).
Produced in partnership with the Canadian Film Centre, the Canada Council, Telefilm Canada and the Ontario Film Development Corporation, Zero Patience opened to mixed reviews but went on to win a number of prestigious Canadian film awards. The film has been the subject of critical attention in the context of both film theory and queer theory and is considered part of the informal New Queer Cinema movement.
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