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Canada, 1992 (MIFF 1993, Documentaries)

Director: Aerlyn Weissman, Lynne Fernie

'Venus of Lesbos: Theirs was a passion no man could share'. 'Man Hater: They hid their claws under nail polish'. 'Lesbians in Black Lace: They were twilight girls, black nylon lovers'. 'Girls Barracks. Warped desires of women who need no men'.

This is just a small sample of the hundreds of lurid titles many pulp paperback writers were churning out in the fifties and sixties. They, along with tabloid headlines, archival photographs and rare film footage, provide a fascinating backdrop for this compelling and often hilarious look at the development of lesbian consciousness during the not so tolerant, good-old-days of 40 years ago.

A wide variety of women speak eloquently, and with humourous hindsight, of their first loves, last husbands, the 'butch' or 'fem' dilemma, cross-dressing, bar scenes, motorcycles, knife fights, racism, police harassment, job ghettoisation and the changes, both good and bad, they have witnessed. In one telling moment writer Anne Bannon shares her excitement when, as a young novelist, she journeyed to New York in search of 'the Lesbians,' only to stand in the streets of Greenwich Village unable to decide what to look for, and too afraid to ask! (Despondent, she returned home to write her own, more torrid, imaginings, that became closet classics.)

Threading the documentary together with lush and deliciously sexy fictional sequences of women in love (with each other), pulp novel style, the filmmakers have woven a complex and delightful oral history. A vibrant, uplifting and rambunctious reminiscence that ensures that the generally undocumented experiences of lesbian lives has found another, welcome, voice.

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