Pioneers of Queer Cinema Series at Gene Siskel Film Center

July 13, 2022🏳️‍🌈 Pioneers of Queer Cinema 🏳️‍🌈 August 2 – September 4, 2022

From Press Release originally published July 13, 2022

In partnership with the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents differing, often radical explorations of sexual orientation and gender identity. Pioneers of Queer Cinema introduces and reacquaints audiences with landmark queer works and their makers, while inspiring new conversations and renewed action surrounding the complex obstacles LGBTQ+ communities continue to face. The series features works from groundbreaking LGBTQ+ filmmakers, including writer-director-punk archivist-actor Cheryl Dunye ( THE WATERMELON WOMAN); early New Queer Cinema director Gregg Akari (THE LIVING END); the debut feature from lesbian feminist filmmaker and artist Barbara Hammer (NITRATE KISSES on 16mm ); and filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs’s essential history and intersectional exploration of Black, gay Americans (TONGUES UNTIED). The program’s 35mm and 16mm celluloid features include the groundbreaking oral history WORD IS OUT: STORIES OF SOME OF OUR LIVES on 35mm; the experimental and moving BLACKSTAR: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF FRIENDSHIP on 35mm; “one of the first documentaries to challenge homophobic and sexist attitudes about lesbian parenting,” CHOOSING CHILDREN on 35mm; “the best and most honest film ever made about AIDS,” PARTING GLANCES on 35mm, starring Steve Buscemi; and Robert Epstein’s powerful documentary THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK on 35mm. Other series highlights include Jennie Livingston’s acclaimed and powerful portrait of NYC’s Ballroom scene in the ’80s PARIS IS BURNING and Donna Deitch’s groundbreaking and tender portrait of queer female intimacy DESERT HEARTS.


1996 / Cheryl Dunye / USA / 90 mins / In English / Format: Digital 

“THE WATERMELON WOMAN gives us something we don’t see much of in film — young black women claiming their space and sharing it with the rest of us.” – Rosalind Bentley, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“In creating a rich, complex film about the processes of filmmaking and the intersections of identity, Dunye’s THE WATERMELON WOMAN gets at the risk and reward involved in creating one’s own history, which so often melds truth with fiction.” – Alyx Vesey, Bitch Media

With her first feature, writer-director-punk archivist-actor Dunye portrays “Cheryl,” a 20-something video store employee with big dreams to open her own production company, who is in a complicated courtship with the politically tone-deaf Diana. Preceded by A COMEDY IN SIX UNNATURAL ACTS (1975, dir. Jan Oxenberg / USA, 26 min. In English / 4K restoration by IndieCollect), a series of B&W vignettes which interpret six six stereotypes of lesbians as a series of standalone sketches worthy of a queerer, more experimental Saturday Night Live.

Tuesday, August 2, 7:00pm; Saturday, August 6, 2:00 click here to purchase tickets


1990 / Jennie Livingston / USA / 78 mins / In English / Format: Digital

Livingston’s acclaimed document of NYC’s Ballroom scene in the 80s remains a powerful portrait of community and resilience among queer and trans people of color, while continuing to provoke questions around equity and representation amid unresolved social inequalities. Preceded by ALWAYS ON SUNDAY (1962, dir. Connie B. Demille of the Gay Girls Riding Club / USA, 10 min. In English / Format: Digital), a gender-bending nod to the Jules Dassin international hit; and STORMÉ: THE LADY OF THE JEWEL BOX (1987, dir. Michelle Parkerson / USA, 21 min. In English / Format: Digital) , the vital tale of legendary performer and activist Stormé DeLarverie, set against the U.S.’ first racially integrated drag show.

Wednesday, August 24, 7:00pm; Sunday, August 28, 2:00pm click here to purchase tickets


1994 & 1989 / Arthur Dong, Marlon Riggs / USA / 126 mins / In English / Format: Digital

“COMING OUT UNDER FIRE is a fascinating and poignant look at how the ban affected seven lives.” – Achy Obejas, Chicago Tribune 

TONGUES UNTIED is a bracing statement of self-identity and a towering work of self-expression and self-reflection, beautifully capturing a time and place yet reverberating through the decades as a work by an artist boldly stating his Black queerness.” – Mattie Lucas, From the Front Row 

Based on the landmark book by Allan Bérubé, COMING OUT UNDER FIRE (1994, dir. Arthur Dong / USA, 71 min. In English / Format: Digital) fuses captivating interviews with nine gay women and men with archival images and documentation to explore homosexuality in the military; the essential TONGUES UNTIED (1989, dir. Marlon Riggs / USA, 55 min. In English / Format: Digital) captures histories of eroticism and transcendence among Black, gay Americans, and the sometimes-violent conflicts of their intersecting identities and external pressures.

Wednesday, August 31, 7:00pm; Sunday, September 4, 2:00pm click here to purchase tickets