Tongues Untied

  • Tongues Untied
© Courtesy of IDFA 2011
Genre : Social
Type : Documentary
Original title :
Principal country concerned : Column : Cinema/tv
Year of production : 1989
Format : Mid-length
Running time : 55 (in minutes)

Overflowing with fury and humor, this powerful and poetic documentary calls on gay Afro-American "brothers" to bring about a loving revolution.

Blending documentary footage with personal account and fiction, Tongues Untied is an attempt to depict the specificity of black gay identity. In addition to detailing US black gay culture, Riggs discusses the development of his own identity and coping with the deaths of many friends to AIDS.

"Faggots aren't allowed to look at my ass while I'm on stage," Eddy Murphy jokes, and his audience falls over in laughter. But not director Marlon Riggs. This "joke" by the popular black comedian is one of the attitudes Riggs indicts in his documentary Tongues Untied, in which the director asks why no one is standing up for Afro-American homosexuals - not even themselves. Their pain, frustration and anger are given a face in this film, which uses rap, poetry, personal stories, close-ups of cursing mouths, music, slow-motion images that seem to come from a parallel world, and a lesson in "diva" finger-clicking. The beating heart of the film is a banging drum: or a ticking time bomb. Tongues Untied is a powerful statement overflowing with fury and humor, calling on the "brothers" to break the silence and bring about a loving revolution. It also includes a sex scene, hot gay poetry ("Let the beans burn all night long"), catchy footage of young men striking a pose, and tips on how to button the lips of bullies: "Yes, I'm a sissy. Why do you care?" There's also a lead role for American poet and gay rights activist Essex Hemphill, who died of AIDS.

Dir: Marlon Riggs, 1989, USA, documentary, 55 min

Source: IDFA 2011


  • Arterial network
  • Media, Sports and Entertainment Group (MSE)
  • Gens de la Caraïbe
  • Groupe 30 Afrique
  • Alliance Française VANUATU
  • Zimbabwe : Culture Fund Of Zimbabwe Trust
  • RDC : Groupe TACCEMS
  • Rwanda : Positive Production
  • Togo : Kadam Kadam
  • Niger : ONG Culture Art Humanité
  • Collectif 2004 Images
  • Africultures Burkina-Faso
  • Bénincultures / Editions Plurielles
  • Africiné
  • Afrilivres

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