February is LGBT+ History Month and this year’s theme is #BehindThe Lens. This aims to celebrate “LGBT+ peoples’ contribution to cinema and film from behind the lens. Directors, cinematographers, screen writers, producers, animators, costume designers, special effects, make up artists, lighting directors, musicians, choreographers and beyond.” (LGBT+ History Month, 2023)
To help you learn more we’ve pulled together just a small selection of Library resources that will allow you to start to look ‘Behind the Lens’.
Books and more books (we are a Library after all)
Why not start with The Oxford handbook of queer cinema as an introduction. This hefty tome covers a wide variety of topics including silent and classical Hollywood films, European and American independent and art films, post-Stonewall and New Queer Cinema, global queer cinema and new queer voices and forms.
New queer cinema: A critical reader considers the filmmakers, the geography, and the audience of New Queer Cinema. While Queer cinema in Europe brings together case studies of key films and filmakers in this area. Sapphism on screen: Lesbian desire in French and Francophone cinema focuses even more specifically on films made by male and female directors working in France and other French-speaking parts of the world. In a queer time and place: Transgender bodies, subcultural lives is the first full-length study of transgender representations in film but also art, fiction, video and music. Whereas LGBTQ film festivals: Curating queerness pays homage to the labour of queer organisers, critics and scholars.
If you’re interested in specific films then you might want to start with two books from the American Indies series from Edinburgh University Press. Far From Heaven offers a detailed and perceptive study of Todd Haynes’ film, while Brokeback Mountain examines Ang Lee’s film in relation to indie cinema, genre, specatorship, editing and homosexuality.
Focusing on filmmakers themselves A companion to Pedro Almodóvar is a detailed appraisal of Almodóvar’s unique cinematic art and examines the themes, style and aesthetics of his body of work. Merchant-Ivory: Interviews gathers together interviews from over five decades with director James Ivory and his producing partner and life partner, the late Ismail Merchant, as well as their frequent screenwriter, the late Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. And Turning the page: Storytelling as activism in queer film and media introduces three nonprofit organisations that have postively transformed the queer media landscape.
All of these books are available as e-books from the Library but some are also available in print at the Library. This is just a very small selection of what is available to find more books on this subject area then search DiscoverEd.
Films, TV, documentaries, etc.
Featuring LGBT+ talent in front of and behind the lens, here’s a small* collection of films, documentaries and more that you can stream via the Library.
*And this really is small as there is such a large selection to choose from.
We mentioned books about Almodóvar and Merchant-Ivory and the Library has access to a number of their films either to stream or on DVD. However, why not start with Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory (original Spanish title: Dolor y gloria) a semi-autobiographical drama about a successful, 60-something film director, who as his health is failing takes stock of his life and reconnects with old friends and lovers. Alternatively, you could instead (or as well as) watch Maurice, one of Merchant-Ivory’s acclaimed period dramas about a young Englishman coming of age in the 1910s and struggling to understand and accept his homosexuality.
The Watermelon Woman is a seminal romantic comedy-drama written, directed by and staring Cheryl Dunye. This film is about a 20-something Black lesbian working in a video store (it was the 1990s!) who has aspirations of becoming a film-maker herself and decides to make a documentary about Black actresses in the 1930s and 1940s, who were often uncredited in their roles. Dunye was the first out black lesbian to direct a feature film and you can watch a selection of her earlier films that started it all: The early works of Cheryl Dunye. You also might be interested in A conversation with Barbara Hammer and Cheryl Dunye where they discuss their films, process and all of the personal that goes into their work. Hammer was one of the pioneers of the lesbian film genre.
The Celluloid Closet is a 1995 documentary surveying the various Hollywood screen depictions of homosexuals and the attitudes behind them throughout the history of North American film. If you want to go further behind the lens then why not take a look at The Celluloid Closet – Preliminary Production Notes an original copy of a 22-page press packet from Sony Pictures Classics which provides detailed notes about those involved in the making of the documentary, with someone’s handwritten note “Opens April 26” scrawled across the title page. The Celluloid Closet is also available to borrow as a DVD (remember them!) from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) Library.
A Fantastic Woman (original Spanish title:Una mujer fantástica) follows a transgender woman after the unexpected death of her older boyfriend. Facing the ire and descrimination from her boyfriend’s family, doctors and the authorities, she is forced to fight for the right to mourn her loss and live her life unapologetically. Framing Agnes features a cast of trans actors who, after discovering case files from a 1950s gender clinic, turn a talk show inside out to confront the legacy of a young trans woman force to choose between honesty and access.
And we’ll finish (this section) with the landmark documentary Paris Is Burning which provides a vibrant snapshot of the 1980s through the eyes of New York City’s African American and Latinx Harlem drag ball scene. The documentary celebrates the joy of movement, the force of eloquence, and the draw of community.
Doing your own research
If you want to explore further LGBT+ peoples’ contribution to cinema and film from behind (and in front of) the lens then you can use some of the Library’s research databases to search for journal articles, book chapters, reviews, theses, conference papers, etc., on this topic and beyond.
Bloomsbury Screen Studies would be a good place to start as it offers a broad range of content to support moving-image studies. As well as critical and contextual books on film from the late 19th century to the present, it also includes award-winning screenplays.
Other databases to take a look at would be Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text which provides a comprehensive, balanced collection of full-text and bibliographic coverage from scholarly and popular sources, and spanning the entire spectrum of film and television studies. Or Screen Studies Collection by ProQuest which is a comprehensive survey of current publications related to film scholarship alongside detailed and expansive filmographies.
If you’re more interested in what is being written about this subject area in popular lifestyle and cultural magazines then the LGBT Magazine Archive should get your attention. This offers the complete backfiles of many of the leading, established, long-running periodicals of this type. This includes The Advocate, Diva, Gay Times, Out and The Pink Paper, with coverage from the first issue of each publication until 2015 (or date the magazine ceased publication if pre-2015). You may also want to take a look at the Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive, including some of the core U.S. and U.K. trade magazines covering film, music, broadcasting and theatre from the era of vaudeville and silent movies through to the 21st century.
You can access all of these databases and more via our Databases A-Z list. However, our Film Studies guide offers guidance on a range of resources, including databases and more, that are relevant to this subject area.
That’s all folks…
We hope this is enough to get you started in exploring Behind the Lens this LGBT+ History Month and beyond.
Note that all online resources mentioned in this blog post are only available to current students and staff at the University of Edinburgh.
Box of Broadcasts (BoB) is only available on the UK mainland, though VPN may help you get around this.
LGBT+ History Month (2023) Available at: https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk/lgbt-history-month-2023/ (Accessed: 20 February 2023).