Tongues Untied (1989)

  • Documentary
  • 55min
  • United States of America

Price: $4.99 + taxes and fees

Through poetry readings, music, dance and personal testimony, Marlon T. Riggs’ lyrical documentary examines the homophobia and racism Black gay men face.

Emmy Award–winning director Marlon T. Riggs’ 1989 documentary on Black gay life uses poetry, personal testimony, rap, and performances by poet Essex Hemphill and others to reflect on the intersection of homophobia and racism that confronts Black gay men. There’s no shortage of examples: a man who is refused entry to a gay bar because of his skin colour; a college student left bleeding on the sidewalk after being beaten; the loneliness and isolation of a drag queen. Yet the stories in this documentary also affirm the Black gay male experience with images of protest marches, smoky bars, “snap divas,” and vogue dancers.

More than 30 years after its release, Tongues Untied — winner of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Experimental/Independent Film/Video, and Best Documentary at the Berlin Film Festival — is as relevant as ever. With its unique combination of various forms of artistic expression, it celebrates Black gay identity and defies its silencing.

Programmed by TIFF’s LGBTQ+ Staff Advisory Committee

Content advisories: sexual content, drug use, coarse language

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Marlon T. Riggs