Pout for the Duration – Sheffield's LGBT movie season

LGBT film has undoubtedly exploded on to the cinema screens and the small screens alike over the past few years… 
With blockbusting films such as ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and TV series such as ‘Lip Service’ smashing through mislead notions of homosexuality, we were curious to see what the POUT Film Tour 2012 – currently running at huggable Sheffield indie cinema The Showroom – would unearth.
The POUT 2012 Tour showcases six prominent LGBT films centred on exploring fundamental issues such as identity, isolation, freedom and rejection. Never content with the bare bones of the news, we caught up with lecturer Dr David Forrest from The University of Sheffield to pick his brains about the British and international LGBT film scene…
Landmark moments in LGBT film are largely defined by the bold and the mainstream so when we tentatively breached the subject of everyone’s well known homosexual themed film, Brokeback Mountain, we half expected to be marking out a patch on stereotype island. Not at all, Dr David Forrest reassured us, "Brokeback Island is a great film which subverts a traditional masculine genre, especially as the lead actors are straight and the role goes against their public image." The brutal fact that Brokeback Mountain missed out to Crash in the Oscar stakes indicates there is still a long way to go in LGBT cinema says Dr Forrest, however it still did a huge amount to put LGBT film on the map and influenced people who were initially sceptical about the storyline.
This leads us to discuss the first ever LGBT film, a topic which places us on uncertain ground, especially considering the speculation that some classic film favourites such as Noel Coward’s Brief Encounters may have homosexual undertones hidden by a heterosexual storyline. At the risk of analysing every film ever made, Dr Forrest selects Nighthawk (1978) as one of the first explicitly gay films with a storyline that centres on a homosexual man who hides his identity throughout the day whilst living out his true desires after dark. As the first exploration into gay culture in British film, Nighthawk captures isolation and a hidden identity during an era of taboo and prejudice, factors which lead to the film holding such significance for LGBT productions.
So what about our own fair city? With the POUT Tour proudly perched in Sheffield this December we couldn’t resist asking about our own position in the starry LGBT film filmament. Although Dr Forrest tells us Sheffield isn’t exactly at the peak of cutting edge LGBT cinema, we certainly have a smattering of gay and transgender themes in well acclaimed films. Think of the Full Monty and emasculated Yorkshire men with a penchant for thongs comes to mind, however a key component of the story is the romance that blossoms between two of the male characters. Local lad Sean Bean has further explored LGBT themes in his role in BBC Drama Accused in which he played a transsexual gay prostitute, a further role which packs a significant punch from an actor usually associated with a heterosexual identity.

The upcoming POUT tour promises to offer more than just the average cinema experience by using the season to pilot Q Cinema. Q Cinema is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield Humanities Research Institute and the Showroom Cinema, Dr Forrest tells us. The scheme will allow audiences to experience more of the film making process via their mobile phones and online, taking the film further than the cinema. As the season is showcasing films which portray a range of LGBT topics, such a resource further enriches the films content. We questioned Dr Forrest about the challenges facing the film makers, in particular Call me Kuchu, a production centred on a Ugandan man fighting against the country’s homophobic laws. ‘I think it highlights the importance of the cinema more than the media’ he divulges, it is challenging to even get these films out of the country and often an enormous sense of responsibility is placed on the film producer’s shoulders.
So, what in Dr Forrest’s view constitutes the top three LGBT films ever made? Firstly Weekend (2011), a beautiful film set in Nottingham about two men who meet one weekend. Coming up a close second is Bloody Sunday (1971) and sneaking in third is POUT Film screening ‘Keep the Lights On’ a film about a gay New York couple who have to control their individual issues before they can build a life together. If that’s not a roaring seal of approval we don’t know what is…

The POUT Film Tour 2012 runs at The Showroom Cinema until 13th of December. For tickets and more information visit The Showroom website here.

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