WHAT did gay liberation do for gay cinema? To begin to tackle this question, one has to survey the shadowy history of on-screen homosexuality, consider the elusive notion of a gay sensibility and — as with all minority-group debates — weigh the conflicting ideological positions on difference and assimilation. But while there may be no easy answer, the coincidental appearance this week of two gay-theme events in New York repertory houses provides a window into the evolution of gay cinema, both in the shadow of liberation politics and far beyond it.
“Word Is Out,” a 1977 documentary that is being revived in a restored print at Anthology Film Archives starting Friday, interweaves the stories of 26 gay men and lesbians who speak openly about coming out, finding love and fighting prejudice. It was a milestone in the developing public image of the gay-rights movement.
When “Word Is Out” was released in theaters and broadcast on public television more than eight years after the Stonewall riots, media depictions were still largely confined to unflattering stereotypes, and gay audiences had yet to see their experiences reflected on screen. Reviewing the film in The Advocate, Vito Russo declared, “The silence of gay people on the screen has been broken.”
But gay (and gay-friendly) filmmakers were never exactly mute, nor have they all opted to speak in the same ways. Queer/Art/Film, a monthly series that begins its new season at the IFC Center on Monday, serves as a reminder that there is a strain of gay cinema that predates and runs parallel to the consciousness-raising tradition pioneered by “Word Is Out.” Organized by the filmmaker Ira Sachs (“Forty Shades of Blue”) and the journalist Adam Baran, the series is programmed by gay artists and writers invited to present a film they find personally significant.
Complete Story at The New York Times.