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New Queer Cinema  
page: 1  2  

Most tellingly, they assumed a queer audience for their productions, so there was no need to "explain" homosexuality and gay men and lesbians to a presumably straight audience. Thus, they were not concerned with presenting a "politically correct" image of gay men and lesbians; and they even appropriated and reclaimed negative stereotypes.

They also tended to embrace experimental structures and techniques in telling their stories, sometimes necessitated by the exigencies of low budgets but also for ideological and aesthetic reasons. Some films associated with New Queer Cinema, for example, are in black and white, utilize a large number of interior shots, and feature a limited number of actors. Most importantly, however, they unapologetically, and sometimes defiantly, present queer subject matter.

The Aggressiveness of New Queer Cinema

It is, in fact, the aggressiveness with which the core films of New Queer Cinema assert homosexual identity and queer culture that distinguishes them from earlier queer films such as Parting Glances and Mala Noche.

In Poison, for example, the prison sequence includes fairly graphic depictions of intense sexual relationships among inmates confined in an all-male environment. In The Hours and Times, the homosexuality of Brian Epstein is foregrounded, placed at the very center of the narrative rather than relegated to the margins. In Swoon, the Leopold-Loeb murder case of the 1920s is reinterpreted to explore the connections between homosexuality, repression, and criminality.

In The Living End, the couple-on-the-run genre is redefined by featuring two young HIV-positive men, whose marginality by virtue of their HIV status and queerness is itself the subject; they act out their marginality as aggression toward social norms of all kinds.

These films not only aggressively assert queer identities, but they also demand an acknowledgement of queer culture.

The Influence of New Queer Cinema

Because the term New Queer Cinema is sometimes used indiscriminately to refer to any recent film with gay or lesbian content, it has lost some of its specificity. Still, the broader application of the term is understandable, for the "movement" has been very influential.

Perhaps most crucially, the critical and commercial success of the core films have helped other independent films with gay and lesbian content find theatrical distribution. In relying on foundation and arts council grants for funding, the New Queer Cinema also established a fundraising model that has benefited subsequent gay and lesbian films and filmmakers.

Among those who have benefited from the new openness made possible by New Queer Cinema are Rose Troche, whose lesbian love story Go Fish (1994) was produced by Tom Kalin and Christine Vachon; Mary Harron, whose I Shot Andy Warhol (1996) was produced by Vachon; Kimberly Peirce, whose Boys Don't Cry (1999) was also produced by Vachon; Steve McLean, whose Postcards from America (1994), a biographical film about the gay artist and AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz, was produced by Vachon and Tom Kalin; and Nigel Finch, whose Stonewall (1995), about the events leading up to the Stonewall riots of 1969, was also produced by Vachon and Kalin.

Certainly the hits of the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, such as the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch (directed by John Cameron Mitchell and winner of the Audience Award for Best Film) and the documentary Southern Comfort (directed by Kate Davis and winner of the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary) may also be seen as part of the efflorescence of queer cinema initiated a decade earlier by the New Queer Cinema.

Daryl Chin

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arts >> Overview:  Film

Since cinema began, Hollywood has been fascinated with finding ways of representing homosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Film Festivals

The queer film festival circuit came into its own in the early 1990s and has since burgeoned into a major international phenomenon.

arts >> Overview:  Screenwriters

Although film may be a director's rather than a writer's medium, gay and lesbian screenwriters have made significant contributions to both mainstream and independent film.

arts >> Anger, Kenneth

One of America's first openly gay filmmakers, and certainly the first whose work addressed homosexuality in an undisguised, self-implicating manner, Kenneth Anger occupies an important place in the history of experimental filmmaking.

arts >> Araki, Gregg

The poster boy of radical and militant queer cinema, Gregg Araki disdains the ghettoizing label of "gay filmmaker."

arts >> Deitch, Donna

Although pioneering film and television director Donna Deitch is best known for Desert Hearts, a classic of lesbian cinema, she has also made other films that probe gay and lesbian relationships

arts >> Epstein, Brian

Although Brian Epstein created the public image and oversaw the career of the world's most famous rock group, at the peak of his success he suffered acute anxiety that his homosexuality might be exposed.

arts >> Fassbinder, Rainer Werner

Responsible for bringing the much-acclaimed New German Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s to the attention of international audiences, Rainer Werner Fassbinder used cinematic conventions of Hollywood to deliver ideological arguments of the New Left.

arts >> Haynes, Todd

Since his 1991 film Poison won the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, innovative filmmaker Todd Haynes has emerged as the leading figure of the New Queer Cinema.

arts >> Leopold, Nathan F. (1904-1971), and Richard A. Loeb (1905-1936)

The case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who gained notoriety for the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy in 1924, has since become a staple of popular culture, inspiring numerous books, films, and plays.

arts >> Mitchell, John Cameron

While he had already achieved recognition as an actor, the multiple talents of performer, writer, and filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell came to wide public notice in 2001 with the release of his prize-winning film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

arts >> O'Haver, Tommy

Director and screenwriter Tommy O'Haver has drawn on his own experiences as a gay man in creating films and has also demonstrated his versatility by working on a variety of other cinematic projects.

arts >> Pasolini, Pier Paolo

One of the most important cultural figures to emerge from post-World War II Italy, Pier Paolo Pasolini was a versatile man-of-letters, but he was foremost a filmmaker.

arts >> Riggs, Marlon

African-American filmmaker Marlon Riggs celebrated black culture and gay male sexuality, while exposing homophobia and racism.

arts >> Schlesinger, John

British director John Schlesinger has been a significant force in introducing homosexual themes into mainstream British and American films.

arts >> Troche, Rose

Film director Rose Troche has helped to make lesbians more visible onscreen, not as women tortured by their sexuality, but as individuals for whom female homosexuality is comfortable and, indeed, normal.

arts >> Vachon, Christine

The most important producer in the history of queer cinema, Christine Vachon has become a driving force in independent film.

arts >> Van Sant, Gus

One of the most idiosyncratic talents to have emerged from the independent cinema over the past decade and a half, Gus Van Sant is not only matter-of-fact about his sexual orientation, but in his work he also represents homosexuality matter-of-factly.

arts >> Warhol, Andy (as filmmaker)

Although Andy Warhol is generally remembered either for a single film--Sleep (1963)--or for works that he did not actually direct, his contribution to gay cinema is incalculable.

arts >> Wojnarowicz, David

The first gay American artist to respond to the AIDS crisis with anger and moral outrage, David Wojnarowicz used his art as a polemical tool with which to indict those he held responsible for the AIDS epidemic and to document his own suffering.

arts >> Wu, Alice

Filmmaker Alice Wu broke ground with her first feature-length motion picture, Saving Face (2004), a multi-generational portrait of Chinese-American women who transgress traditional sexual taboos.


Gever, Martha, John Greyson, and Pratibha Parmar, eds. Queer Looks: Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Film and Video. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Lippy, Tod, ed. Projections 11: New York Film-makers on Film-making. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000.

Pierson, John. Spike & Mike, Slackers & Dykes: A Guided Tour Across a Decade of American Independent Cinema. New York: Hyperion, 1996.

Rich, B. Ruby. Chick Flicks: Theories and Memories of the Feminist Film Movement. Durham, N. C.: Duke University Press, 1998.

Vachon, Christine, with David Edelstein. Shooting to Kill: How an Independent Producer Blasts Through the Barriers to Make Movies That Matter. New York: Avon Books, 1998.


    Citation Information
    Author: Chin, Daryl  
    Entry Title: New Queer Cinema  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated May 5, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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