The independent London newspaper

Pride and prejudice in Are You Proud?

11 July, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Directed by Ashley Joiner
Certificate 12a

THIS is an uplifting documentary, and yet it is also extremely depressing. Telling the story of sexual orientation and civil rights over the past 75-odd years, it provides a platform for people from the past and today.

In a poignant opening scene, we meet 96-year-old George Montague, a hero who fought the Nazis in World War Two.

He tells of how he suffered for his sexuality: how he was criminalised for simply being gay. He recalls how, aged 36 and unmarried, questions were being asked as to why he was single. A female friend came to the rescue and asked him if he would like to marry her – even though she knew he was gay.

It is a lovely moment, and George comes over as a lovely, thoughtful man who has had a life that while stymied by others’ bigoted views, has found a way to still live, and to love.

This film tells the stories behind the landmark campaigns that have helped gradually shape a fairer world – but also outlines the huge amount of work still to be done.

Archive footage takes us back to the early years of the Pride movement, and talking heads reveal the background to the Stonewall riots from people who were there (one interview cites the recent grief felt by friends over the death of Judy Garland made them less inclined to put up with the nonsense they had faced on a daily basis. It is a brilliant moment).

Members of the Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners group feature – and the impact of the HIV and Aids crisis is also discussed. We hear of how South Wales miners and their communities offered heartfelt support to the people who had shown them solidarity during the strike in dealing with the effect the illness had on gay men.

We hear people speak of how they lost loved ones and then were not invited to their funerals, of how families who did not accept their relatives’ sexuality tried to “reclaim” them in death.

“They took away their history,” says one interviewee.

“They cleansed them, in their eyes. We were fighting two diseases – HIV and the stigma.”

But there are things that are uplifting – the NUM lobbied hard at the 1986 Labour Conference to put gay rights on the agenda.

It also allows members of different groups – Trans Pride, Black Pride – to explain how the world looks to them, and what still needs to be done.

What is most shocking is how this film deals with contemporaneous issues.

You cannot help watch it and feel it should be a documentary about a weird set of attitudes buried deep in ancient history: instead we have Margaret Thatcher making a deeply offensive speech as the Tories launched their Section 28 legislation.

It seems beyond bizarre that a prime minster could say such things within living memory, but there it is.

The Gay Liberation Front, Stonewall and other groups’ contributions are recognised: they deserve saluting for their work. Less well-known organisations, such as the Gay Switchboard, which was run by the late, great Boo Armstrong of Camden Town, also feature.

Watch it, share it, discuss it.


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