Queer Pagan Punk: Derek Jarman
Part two: New Queer Cinema
Derek Jarman’s films are not just an outpouring of creative energy, they were made to convey a message of resistance, and effect change.
Introduction by William Fowler
Derek Jarman is rightly celebrated as a bold and provocative artist who worked in a wide variety of registers and mediums. He developed a language that encouraged collaboration and embraced change. When needs be, he worked on sparse, minimal sets or gladly shot on Super8, working directly with like-minded friends and fellow creatives to create a body of work that is diverse and imaginative.
In the second part of our two-month retrospective we embrace the powerful message of resistance that unites his output from 1987 onward. Jarman had come of age in the 50s and early 60s, a period in which homosexuality was illegal, and he refused to return to the repressive mood of those times. The combative clause 25/28 of the Local Government Act 1988 forbade the promotion of homosexuality, and he openly both resisted and ridiculed the clause and the Conservative government that had introduced it.
Jarman contracted HIV in 1986, and in attempt to dispel anger and fear – and to yet again confront the status quo – he publicly discussed what it was like to live and work with this new controversial virus. Speaking with profound power and charisma, he became a noted public figure. In 1988 Jarman said that his work ‘would definitely be there to promote homosexuality from now on,’ but he also condemned the Falklands War, social breakdown and even capitalism itself. Cinema and life were not separate concerns for Jarman, and it’s this that we ultimately celebrate in our retrospective. No matter what the style was, or how they finally got made, Jarman’s films were created to affect change, and his legacy as a British cinema artist is considerable.
Next month we present newly restored films by John Maybury, Cerith Wyn Evans and many other Jarman friends and collaborators in a special archival season that has been three years in the making. Join us in April for This is Now: Film and Video After Punk.
And don’t miss other Jarman screenings in the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, starting 20 March.
Screenings will be complemented by a number of talks in the BFI Reuben Library. An exhibition featuring a selection of Derek Jarman’s famous notebooks will take place in the BFI Mezzanine.