Lesbiana: a Parallel Revolution

23 08 2013

Imagine a man saying this to you:

“I don’t want to live with women. I don’t even want to see them. I just want to live in a community with other men, to know that I am surrounded by men. When I go to the grocery store, I might see a woman and it might bother me a little, but when I get home, I know that I am back in my community with men.”

If a man said this, I think most people would be on him and accuse him of being a misogynist. Fair enough. But what if the genders were switched around a women said that? Would we be as quick to label her as a misandrist?

This is only one of the many problems that Myriam Fougère’s documentary Lesbiana: a Parallel Revolution ignores and fails to explore that would have made it a far more captivating film. From the start, it dives right into what the film will be exploring: after the ’60s, women all over the world became part of a “revolution”, a separating themselves from the Women’s Movement into a one focusing on lesbianism and their wish to live with and be with other lesbian women. This sounds promising enough, and is bound to be rich in history and struggle against society’s norms. Instead, Lesbiana fails as a historical documentary, and most disappointingly on even the basic levels as a documentary.

Right off the bat, there is no context to the film. Interviewees, who were participants during Lesbiana, delve right into the movement rather than explaining the time period, the society and atmosphere, and why the need to have a lesbian movement. It also doesn’t help that the editing makes the film confusing; interviewees talk about a “separatist movement”, but it isn’t until more than halfway through the film that they explain what they are separating themselves from. Featuring too many interviewees, b-roll of book cover after book cover (with wooden pipe music played on top, as if suggesting some mystical power these books have), Lesbiana follows no timeline or sequence of events, jumping from one person to another without transition or link.

All the talking-heads are lesbian women who were involved in Lesbiana/the lesbian revolution after the ’60s. This wouldn’t be such a problem if their information wasn’t presented with such grandiosity and positivity. There’s a brief mention in the beginning of the film about how not all the women got along and there were discussions and arguments, but any sort of conflict or drama during Lesbiana disappears. Every interviewee speaks fondly of the period and how the revolution shaped not only themselves but the rest of the world.  Fougère doesn’t seem to mind that not only does this make for uninteresting film, but that only positive memories and information from the women who were involved while excluding anyone outside of the movement is blatantly biased and clearly a conflict of interest.

In fact, there are no other perspectives other than the lesbian women who were involved; there is no professor to talk about the social impact of Lesbiana, no historian to comment on the effect it had not only for the Women’s Movement but for the Queer Movement. Hell, there isn’t even a bystander or friend or family member involved somehow to attest that what these women were doing wasn’t simply all in their heads. Fougère, in a wordy, bombastic, overly-formal voice-over, narrates how she was also part of the revolution, and seems more interested in keeping the information positive and good than to explore any sort of deeper issues, such as what patriarchy really means to these women, or the social impact. There are no questions asked about how things happened, just that they did, and that they were good, resulting in a rosy, scrapbook-like narrative that excludes those who weren’t involved, and is warm and fuzzy for those who were.

Lastly, there’s a very brief talk by one interviewee who mentions how men are the cause of abuse, rape, and other terrible things against women, yet none of the women ever say they have any negative personal experiences with men. Fougère outrageously lets this slide without calling out her subjects or asking for them to elaborate on it, and it feels as if it’s because of the personal conflict/conflict of interest at work again. All of this, combined with the complete absence of any other perspective, makes Lesbiana no longer a documentary, but a blatant propaganda film of the most amateur kind (and boring propaganda at that).

But what do I know? I may be a feminist and I may be gay, but I’m still a male, and that’s apparently enough to make them turn away from me in disgust at the supermarket.

Grade: F


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