QUEER CINEMA HISTORY
Emil Doll of Queer Cinema History shares his favourite scene in queer cinema, his connection with Sal Mineo’s character in Rebel Without A Cause and curates a night of queer cinema for us.
“Desert Hearts (1985), Mala Noche (1986), Beautiful Boxer (2003), The Watermelon Woman (1996), and Paris is Burning (1990).”
YOUTH and ROLEMODELS
Where did you grow up and how was your experience coming out?
I grew up in Northern New Jersey, “so close yet so far” from New York City. Coming out was difficult only because the culture was not quite where we are today. It felt like a 50/50 as far as which way society would turn; since there was such resistance to issues like gay marriage, as well as the continued exclusion of trans people from the larger LGBTQ movement, it was impossible to imagine a country like the one I live in today (for better or for worse).
Growing up was cinema an escape for you to be able to identify with queer characters or how did you develop your relationship with cinema?
As I was growing up, cinema for me meant Hollywood. The queer characters I saw in Hollywood films were so lazily constructed out of used stereotypes that I could never locate myself in them. In order to enjoy the largely heterosexual films surrounding me, I had to bring my own interpretation into the theater with me. I developed a stronger relationship with cinema as I got older, especially in the beginning of college.
Was there a queer character or role model throughout your childhood that had an impact on you?
I’ve always strongly identified with Sal Mineo’s character in Rebel Without a Cause, who is frequently read as queer. His status as an outcast and the sensitivity of his relationship with James Dean’s character are, for queer audiences, shorthand for his gay identity. Derek Jarman, the British director, is also a very strong role model for me, and his books take up a good deal of space on my bookshelf.
What advice would you give to your adolescent self?
Just read a book and take it easy.
“…the idea that throughout film history, LGBTQ writers, directors, and actors always managed to express queer ideas and experiences despite repression and censorship.”
QUEER CINEMA HISTORY
Queer Cinema History explores films, mostly vintage films that feature LGBTQ characters. What inspired you to pursue this direction?
I was largely inspired by The Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo. In it he discusses how queer characters have always been incorporated into film history, just not explicitly. This was a really empowering idea for me, because I often only heard of queer history in terms of queers being people who constantly suffered on the margins of society. I liked the idea that throughout film history, LGBTQ writers, directors, and actors always managed to express queer ideas and experiences despite repression and censorship.
What has been the initial reaction to Queer Cinema History?
So far, it seems to make people really happy. I’ve recently been followed by several queer film festivals in Europe, and I’m hoping that maybe I can reach audiences in other parts of the world. Or maybe these film festivals will fly me around the world to speak to packed theaters and from there it’s smooth sailing to a lifetime achievement award from every major award ceremony.
If you were to curate Netflix’s LGBTQ section, what are the first five films you would include?
Desert Hearts (1985), Mala Noche (1986), Beautiful Boxer (2003), The Watermelon Woman (1996), and Paris is Burning (1990).
What is your favorite scene in a queer film?
In Todd Hayne’s Safe, there’s a really well done scene that I think encapsulates a lot about the paradoxes of queer film. Safe isn’t really about queer people at all but rather is an allegory to the AIDS crisis written and directed by a queer man. Carol, played by Julianne Moore, is talking to her friend Linda about Linda’s brother’s death. The conversation plays out like this:
How old was he?
Five years older. He was the oldest of my mom’s kids.
That’s what everyone keeps…Not at all…Because he wasn’t married.
There’s almost no information given here, but we know we are talking about AIDS. Carol doesn’t have to say the name of the illness, but in the context of 1980’s Los Angeles, it doesn’t need to be said. “He wasn’t married” is shorthand for “gay”. I find this scene so brilliant because it mirrors how queer issues have been discussed in films throughout history.
“His status as an outcast and the sensitivity of his relationship with James Dean’s character are, for queer audiences, shorthand for his gay identity.“
Is there a director or creative that makes you excited for the future of cinema?
Films are starting to look up for me. For so long I’ve felt like everything in theaters involves superheroes or straight people going on vacation, but I think that’s changing. I’m especially looking forward to Reina Gosset’s Happy Birthday Marsha!, as well as Tom of Finland by Dome Karukoski.
Actress, Daniele Verga, made history becoming the first openly transgender presenter at the Oscars. How important do you think it is to have diverse representation in the film industry?
Enormously important. For one to see people like themselves in as many forms as possible, they can know with more confidence what they are able to achieve.
What is your Go-To track for exercising?
Rapture by Blondie, but recently I’ve grown fond of going beastmode on the elliptical while blaring Bodak Yellow and imagining that I wrote it and am performing it in front of a particularly uncouth ex.
What have you learnt about yourself this year?
I’ve learned that I can forever remain a student as long as I seek out the teachers I need.
What would you graffiti on the back of a toilet door?
Smrt fasizmu – sloboda narodu.