Kalamazoo College’s LGBTQIA student organization Kaleidoscope hosted a screening of the film “Tongues Untied” last Tuesday, Feb. 23 in Bissell Theater as a part of the Office of Student Involvement’s “Tuesdays With…” series.
“Tongues Untied” is a semi-documentary film directed by the prolific gay, black filmmaker, educator, poet, and gay rights activist Marlon Riggs. The film first aired in 1989 as a part of the “P.O.V.” PBS series, which showcases independent nonfiction films and was recently shown at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, which ended on Feb. 21.
Riggs is cited as saying that the film seeks to “shatter the nation’s brutalizing silence on matters of sexual and racial difference.” “Tongues Untied” is consistent with Riggs’ often experimental film style, composed of a montage of works of poetry by activist writers such as Essex Hemphill, selections of essays, fictional skits, musical performances, and Riggs’ autobiographical accounts.
Zoe Johannsen K‘14, who was present at the screening and is the secretary of Kaleidoscope, commented on the montage form of the film.
“It’s is just so intense and there is so much in it that I always end up wanting to look things up and learn more about the content when it’s over,” she said.
Kate Ballew K‘17, Kaleidoscope’s president, related what she saw as some of the main themes of the film to the notion of “Tongues Untied” as a description of breaking silence.
In Ballew’s view, the film reflects a concept articulated by writer and radical feminist Audre Lorde, which she described as the “revolutionary act of transforming silence into language and action.” Ballew added that “Tongues Untied” brings to mind the experience in which “groups that are always under constant threat realize that because they are under constant threat, there is no point in being silent.”
When asked what their intentions were in choosing to screen “Tongues Untied”, Ballew pointed to the fact that “a lot of gay culture has been appropriated from black queer culture is something that isn’t always addressed– screening this film was an attempt to approach this subject and open discussion about a history that is often overwritten.”
Kaleidoscope is “open to suggestions on how to make the group more accessible to queer people of color,” Ballew said. “We want to make sure it is a comfortable space for all people, not just white people.”