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Friday, April 3, 2015

Queer Film Event, my gaze//yr gaze, Debuts in SF Sunday

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 2:30 PM

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This Sunday, after the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have crowned a new Hunky Jesus and Foxy Mary, and the pastel-hued crowds have left Golden Gate Park, a goodly portion of the Bay Area’s queer arts community will convene at Alley Cat Books for an annual curated film screening, multimedia artist Irwin Swirnoff’s my gaze//yr gaze.

In years past, this free event took place in Oakland, and the role of selector had gone to artists such as Brontez Purnell and Michelle Tea. The San Francisco debut features local actor and performer Rotimi Agbabiaka, who has chosen two films about the gay black experience, Marlon Riggs’s 1991 Tongues Untied and Isaac Julien’s 1989 Looking for Langston.

In picking these films (one of which he has chosen sight unseen), Agbabiaka says he’s trying to create a space for a community that seems to be pushed out, or is otherwise in decline.

“There is a way to create community that’s accessible and to explore and share these rich histories that we as queers have,” he says, reiterating that it’s a free event. “A history that’s not necessarily reflected in more mainstream depictions of queer people.”

Tongues Untied, based on the writings of gay poet Essex Hemphill, is a “sort of pastiche of different forms, the more lyrical poetic scenes and things that feel like a documentary,” Agbabiaka says. “There are a lot of things that happen without [the LGBT] community that reflect a sort of lack of sensitivity towards the experience of a black gay person. I love having the opportunity to share this film as a way of creating dialogue around black issues.”

Arguably an even more impressionistic film, Looking for Langston contrasts Jazz Age Harlem speakeasies with gritty London clubs of the 1980s, and Agbabiaka’s desire to screen it is even more personal. He’s been studying the work of James Baldwin in preparation for a role in The Amen Corner with San Rafael’s Alter Theater Company, and felt the urge to dig even deeper into the past, to the Harlem Renaissance.

“I’ve been reading a lot of James Baldwin and thinking a lot about queer ancestors,” he says. “I’m excited to explore how people who came before us figured out how to be queer, and how to express themselves.”

If it sounds like the type of even that would be kissing goodbye to San Francisco to shack up with Oakland and not the other way around, well, there’s a reason for that.

“I think this is a time when it seems like too many things that we love are moving away from here. It feels like we need community more than ever, “ Agbabiaka says. “It’s a way to give voice to a community—specifically, gay black men in San Francisco—that hasn’t always been given a platform.

And it all goes down after the usual Easter madness ends, Agbabiaka notes.

“It’s a nice way to wind down after a day in the park.”
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Pete Kane

Pete Kane

Pete Kane is a total gaylord who is trying to get to every national park before age 40


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