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Poster for Tongues Untied

Tongues Untied

Opens on April 9

Director: Marlon Riggs Run Time: 55 min. Release Year: 1990

Starring: Brian Freeman, Essex Hemphill, Marlon Riggs, Michael Bell, Willi Ninja

Marlon T. Riggs Spotlight

Throwback from 1989

Marlon Riggs, with assistance from other gay Black men, especially poet Essex Hemphill, celebrates Black men loving Black men as a revolutionary act. The film intercuts footage of Hemphill reciting his poetry, Riggs telling the story of his growing up, scenes of men in social intercourse and dance, and various comic riffs, including a visit to the “Institute of Snap!thology,” where men take lessons in how to snap their fingers: the sling snap, the point snap, the diva snap.

Our main feature for a themed Marlon T. Riggs night at the Brattle: Tongues Untied is an experimental doc combining personal narratives, poetry, performance, and Riggs’ own commentary to create a powerful and multifaceted portrayal of Black gay life. Combined with 3 of Marlon’s short films that speak to the resilience of what it means to be Black and Gay during the late 80’s and early 90’s, which still ring true today. This is very much a holy grail program for me as a programmer, Marlon’s films touched and inspired me as a filmmaker when I first saw them in the early 90s as a young Queer activist. This grouping of films is a must see for anyone interested in Gay history.
– Shawn Cotter, Programmer

Presented with…


Marlon T. Riggs • USA • English • 10 min

An exploration of Black gay male desires and dreams, Affirmations starts with an affectionate, humorous confessional and moves on to a wish for empowerment and incorporation.


Marlon T. Riggs • USA • English • 9 min

Marlon Riggs’ experimental music video politicizes the homoeroticism of African-American men. With sensual, sexual, and defiant images and words intended to provoke, Anthem reasserts the “self-evident right” to life and liberty in an era of pervasive anti-gay and anti-Black backlash and hysterical cultural repression.

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (No Regret)

Marlon T. Riggs • USA • English • 38 min

Through music, poetry and quiet, at times, chilling self-disclosure, five positive black gay men speak of their individual confrontation with AIDS, illuminating the difficult journey black men throughout America have made in coping with the personal and social devastation of the epidemic. From panic, resignation, and silence to the discovery of the redemptive, healing power in being vocal and visible as HIV-positive black gay men, each tells a singular and at the same time familiar story of self-transformation—a story in which a once shameful, unmentionable “affliction” is forged into a tool of personal and communal empowerment in Marlon T. Riggs’ seminal 1992 film.

Brattle Passes not accepted.

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