Marlon Riggs’ Tongues Untied aimed to limit the inequalities present when it came to race and sexuality. Riggs discusses the severe discriminations that black, gay men are faced with in their day-to-day lives. The main goal of the project was to give those outsiders a voice in society and spread the word that we are all equal. Riggs produced a documentary that humanized the issue, further highlighting that at the end of the day, we are all people in this world. Color and sexuality should not make a difference at all, according to Riggs. In his interview, “Listening to the Heartbeat,” Riggs notes “I moved more and more towards a non-linear, non- traditional documentary. After a while, I even abandoned the word ‘documentary,’ seeking my own sort of embodiment and expression in video to represent these voices, their visions, their words.” Riggs comments on how people often feel uncomfortable with documentaries, as if they are targeting a specific person. It is quite interesting how he used this casual tactic to gain an audience, a method that many modern day documentarians are adapting. Tongues Untied featured several black gay men who spoke about their experiences growing up in a very discriminatory world. They discussed the struggles that they faced living with their identity safely in society. In class, we viewed Robert Mapplethorpe’s numerous works, which experimented with black and white homoerotic images. The purpose of this project along with Riggs’ was to further push the discomfort that people had with homosexuals and race.
Questions: How do you think the African American gay movement has evolved over the years? Are conditions improved? Does having an African American president improve the situation?