Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Forbidden Love: Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives (1992): Before Stonewall, eh

Forbidden Love: Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives (1992)
Dir: Aerlyn Weissman, Lynne Fernie

One of the essential documentaries of the gay community is Before Stonewall, which performs the daunting task of detailing and documenting the development of the gay and lesbian community from the 1920s leading up to 1969. Before Stonewall is American focused, and is also splitting the grounds between gays and lesbians.  Because of its monumental scope, and brief length (it runs all of 87 minutes), Before Stonewall runs right over many of the interpersonal stories, and leaves out the anecdotal experiences of what life may have been life.

Forbidden Love: Unashamed Stores of Lesbian Lives doesn't have nearly as grand of ambitions of Before Stonewall. Weissman and Fernie are mainly wanting to record the personal lives of the lesbians who came before them. These are the lesbians who found the courage to come out in Canada in the 1950s/1960s, and have lived to tell the tales.

Weissman and Fernie decided to frame their documentary within the context of those dime store smutty lesbian novels of the 1950s, especially with interviews by Ann Bannon (who incidentally only wrote 5 of the many many novels of the genre). The majority of their documentary is a series of talking head interviews of actual lesbians interjected with dimestore noir re-enactments of the what the following segment is about.

The first segment outlines the first steps lesbians have in the process of coming out. From the discovery of dimestore novels to leaving their husbands. It also includes adventures in Greenwich Village to find the Nest of American Lesbians. The next section is about the lesbian bar scene, and how lesbians interacted with each other, and with the outside world. How the lesbians were arrested, and how their gay bars were sometimes actually straight bars which took everybody's money. The final section is about relationships and living as lesbians.

Forbidden Love is a slight documentary whose ambitions are merely to reveal the life of a time period, and it achieves that goal well. My favorite parts are the lesbians talking about the butch/femme ratio being 10:1, and then how the home relationships could try to emulate the traditional masculine and feminine home lives that hetero lifestyles have. This is pure anecdotal lesbian living.

There's not much to say about Forbidden Love other than it's cute, and short. It's a bunch of talking heads, with stock footage. If you're curious about the personal lives of Canadian lesbians in the 60s, this is the movie for you.

Unfortunately, this movie never made the jump from VHS to DVD. 9 out of 10 parts are available on YouTube, though the final part is missing (probably due to rights claims from music companies).  In any case, it exists if you feel like searching it out.

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