Forbidden Love: A (short) Documentary Review

Forbidden Love:
The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives
A (short) Documentary Review

By Grandpa Dinosaur


“Compelling, often hilarious and always rebellious, nine women paint a portrait of lesbian sexuality against a backdrop of tabloid headlines, book covers and dramatizations from lesbian pulp novels.

Ever since the NFB launched as a mechanism for showcasing Canada to Canadians, it has produced documentaries on the nation in all its variety. Well, almost all. Despite the work of Studio D (sadly shuttered a decade ago) to produce films by and about women, Canada on screen appeared as a land without lesbians. Enter Lynne Fernie and Aerlyn Weissman, whose groundbreaking documentary excavated archives from Liquor Board photo files to ’50s paperback racks, recreating the details of lesbian life in postwar Canada. With a cast of unrivaled raconteurs spinning their tales, Forbidden Love fills in the blanks in the national psyche. It even invents a faux period drama to give shape to its lesbian elders’ memories. Here is pleasure, lust, and heartbreak writ large, as if a Sirkian lesbian director had trained her florid lens on the joys and tragedies of the girls “in the life.” An exquisite work of imaginative historiography. B. Ruby Rich.”

As a lesbian, I feel that Lesbian media that is not derogatory, NOT marketed to males and actually enjoyable is scarce. To me, gay media to lesbian media is like a joke. There is so little non-embarassing lesbian media out in the world. After attending 2009 Toronto Comics Festival, I was invited to attend to watch a movie “about Lesbians.” I had no idea what I was getting into. I was very glad I went.

The documentary, Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives, covered Lesbianism in early Canadian History, the pulp-fiction that guided Lesbians despite their anti-homosexual conclusions. There were two women, a Haida woman from Canada and a Black woman who was a travelling singer that really stood out to me as they were both women of colour. Their presence in the media made me feel a bit better being a lesbian, although I’m a lesbian, I still like my privacy. I don’t feel I should go touting my “pride” in parades, I’d prefer to go to a bar and have a conversation with a woman, then have my life be a stage show. I find myself siding with Wanda Sykes, when she spoke up about proposition 8 with her lover stressing that she had wanted her privacy but could not condone the dissolution of marriage for homosexuals.

The documentary was wonderful. It had a lot of good music, however the movie may no longer be available to see in theatre showings as the music rights have expired which why I was hesitant to do this review. Good media on Lesbianism, as I mentioned in the starting paragraph, has always been scarce. If you are at all interested in Lesbian History in Canada, the way that Lesbians acted, dressed, where they went to socialize, the documentary covers a lot of it. I particularly laughed when one of the Lesbian couples dressed up as butch and femme and visited a town looking for other Lesbians. The documentary is really well made and has won various awards, in fact I’d love to own it.

If you can see it, do check it out!


~ by l on May 31, 2009.

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