February is LGBT+ History month in the UK – 4 weeks dedicated to tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia; celebrating equality; and raising awareness on matters concerning the LGBT+ community. There’s a wealth of fantastic events taking place across our city organised by such wonderful people as LGBT Sheffield, SAYiT, Friends of Edward Carpenter and at both universities.
This year at the Showroom, we have a range of world-shaking films about love, politics and power that celebrate individuals and remarkable groups making history with their stories.
We kick off on Friday 9 February with Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution, followed by an after party in the Showroom Bar with DJ Anna Kissed (aka the magnificent community worker and activist, Heather Paterson). Queercore is an urgent documentary that was a definite highlight of the fantastic Doc/Fest ’17. With help from the likes of John Waters, Bruce LaBruce and Kathleen Hanna, Queercore tells the story of the start of an international movement in the mid-1980s intended to punk the punk scene, and the widespread rise of artists who used radical queer identity to push back equally against gay assimilation and homophobic culture.
Next up is Body Electric on Tuesday 13 February, a lively Brazilian drama that received its UK premiere at last year’s BFI Flare festival. It tells the story of Elias, the young deputy manager of a garment factory in São Paulo. When he’s not working, he enjoys casual encounters in the big city. The arrival of a new colleague, Fernando, piques his interest and Elias finds himself increasingly drawn into socialising with unbridled passion with his work colleagues, against his bosses wishes.
Have you ever seen a drawing by Touko Valio Laaksonen? It’s not something you’re likely to forget. Best known by the pseudonym Tom of Finland, Laaksonen was a Finnish artist who became a true subversive gay hero and one of the most influential figures of twentieth century LGBT+ culture with an iconic aesthetic that inspired Freddie Mercury, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe and many more. Dome Karukoski’s stirring biopic follows his life from the trenches of WWII and repressive 1950s’ society, through the struggle to finally get his work published amid the sexual revolution of the 1970s. Screening on Friday 16 February, Tom of Finland is a beacon to finding refuge and liberty through art – and a story of love, courage and perseverance, mirroring the liberation movement for which his leather-clad studs served as a defiant emblem.
Rounding everything up in fine fashion is Cheryl Dunye’s 1996 ground-breaking, Teddy Award winning first feature The Watermelon Woman. In a rare chance to see this cutting-edge film on the big screen – this is a pioneer of the New Queer Cinema movement of the 1990s (Todd Haynes – Poison; Jennie Livingston – Paris is Burning etc.) All about the politics of politics of representation: race, sexuality and identity - Cheryl plays a version of herself in this revelatory and revolutionary story about creating your own history. In search for some decent films about women of colour Cheryl stumbles across a woman in an old film, credited simply as ‘The Watermelon Woman’, and sets out on a quest to find her. A funny, fruity and refreshing combination of fiction and real life, the voyage uncovers a host of African American Hollywood actors previously ignored by history where personal and political, real and imagined love stories abound.