Queerama Preview at the BFI

A treasure trove of British LGBT TV and film archive footage from the BFI.

A treasure trove of British LGBT TV and film archive footage from the BFI.


Felipe Sturgis

A lot of fanfare has been made in 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of the legalisation of homosexuality in the UK. Daisy Asquith’s Queerama undoubtedly adds to the music and is arguably one of the most honest pieces of film of the year – documenting a pivotal moment in British society by bridging the past with the present.

Queerama is a collection of clippings of British LGBT archive TV and Film footage that the BFI has recently rediscovered and restored. The meticulous precision involved in creating such a thought-provoking, emotional and at times hilarious film on this subject is a feat in itself. The film is more than a cold, chronological sequence of historical events since July 27th, 1967 and is instead one of the most resonating and real documentaries on the liberation of the LGBT community.

What Queerama does so well and what makes it so realistic is how it addresses surviving societal issues and mirrors them through past imagery. It continually plays on the outrageousness of how people were treated for being part of the LGBT+ community – with some of the most memorable clips being of interviewees having to have their faces blacked out, showcasing a community living not only within their own closet but within society’s closet too.

This is not to say that the film does not have lighter moments and if anything it plays on the ability of the LGBT+ community to laugh through times of trepidation and uncertainty. The lightest moment of the film came from an interviewer’s question “What do Lesbians actually do?” as well as Quentin Crisps relatable and thought provoking quotes around equality.

Even though there were parts which were hilarious, Queerama is not there to make the audience feel that the LGBT+ fight is over. Instead, the film puts into view the desperation of the queer community and admiration that we should all have for the for those who survived the 1950's to the end of the 20th century. Certain viewers who grew up around this period will watch Queerama and be able to relate to it, while future generations will watch in admiration of the those who had the courage to live openly gay and lesbian lives throughout this period.

“I felt uncomfortable since the day that I was born” sings John Grant in one of the many wonderful tracks that accompany the archived footage of decades past. Yet the underlying message from Queerama is that even though legislation has passed and society has changed, this ‘uncomfortable’ feeling still occurs for many people today. Before the film began director Daisy Asquith asked the audience to watch the film and "celebrate and be furious." What Queerama does so spectacularly is not only show how far the queer community has come since 1967, but how far still it has to go.

Queerama was part of the two month season: Gross Indecency: Queer Lives Before and After the '67 Act at London's BFI. Go scope it out.