Destined to become a classic
Written and directed by Aerlyn Weissman and Lynne Fernie
Reviewed by Bronwen Beechey
In the 1950s and '60s, lesbianism was definitely "the love that dare not speak its name". Yet throughout this period there flourished a genre of pulp fiction with lesbian themes.
Sporting lurid covers and titles like Women's Barracks ("the warped desires of women who need no men"), these novels almost inevitably ended in calamity for the women who enjoyed forbidden pleasures with each other — death, eternal separation, or perhaps, worst of all, meeting the right man!
Although aimed largely at a male audience seeking titillation, lesbian pulp fiction also filled an important role for women who were becoming aware of their own attraction to other women — it told them that they weren't alone.
Aerlyn Weissman and Lynne Fernie's 1992 documentary paints an inspiring portrait of lesbian sexuality and survival in Canada during this period. Nine women, all of whom were "out" in the bar scene of the day, recount their stories, interspersed with tabloid headlines, archival photographs and film clips, and a tongue in cheek "film within a film" homage to the lesbian pulp novel.
The women, aged between 40 and 70, are inspiring and often hilarious as they speak candidly about their first loves, coming out, heartbreaks and disappointments and their survival in an extremely homophobic and repressive time.
The only meeting places available to lesbians were seedy bars which were frequently raided by the police or attacked by gangs of men. A black woman and a native Canadian describe how their situation was further complicated by racism, both within and without the lesbian community.
This well-made, entertaining film is destined to become a classic of lesbian and gay film. It is also essential viewing for the reminder of the need to defend the gains made by women, by lesbians and by gay men in the last 20
[Forbidden Love is currently screening as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival. For details of screenings phone (03) 417 4069 or (03) 417 2011.]