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B. Ruby Rich lectures on New Queer Cinema

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New Queer Cinema, a term first coined by B. Ruby Rich in a “Sight & Sound Magazine” in 1992, defines a movement in queer-themed independent filmmaking mainly in the 90s. In a world where topics about “queer” love is mostly associated with films such as “Brokeback Mountain” and “Milk,” and a topic which may be seen as Oscar bait, one may lose sight of the origins of the term “Queer Cinema” in independent films.    

In conjunction with her class titled “Queer Media,” Professor Patricia White invited B. Ruby Rich to give a lecture on Oct. 24th at Swarthmore College titled “The Public and the Private: Queer Cinema in the Age of Streaming.” Rich, an author, professor, and editor of Film Quarterly, had written the book “New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut,” which is what White uses in her class, and helped start the movement back in the 90s.

The lecture itself discussed numerous independent films, from both older and newer generations, with the idea of acknowledging and emphasizing the films that first brought homosexual relationships to audiences on the silver screen. The other topic she focused on was the effect of the digital age on “Queer Cinema” and the shift of “Queer Cinema” more towards Hollywood style films than independent ones, as White points out.   

“One of the main stories told is that mainstreaming has ruined the radical and political movies that have given way to the mainstreaming of gay people. Originally, the films proved that there were audiences beyond LGBT communities. There is slight disappointment with Hollywood over the banking on LGBT stories and ideas as it was previously a lot of political urgency in the original films due to the AIDS crisis at that time.”

Numerous students, including those in White’s Queer Cinema class, and adults attended the lecture. The attendees were later given the opportunity to express their questions and opinions on the topic when Rich opened the floor to those in the audience. These opinions and questions carried on even after the lecture as many students went up to Rich and spoke with her. Kemmer Cope ’17, who is in White’s class, was one of those who later spoke with Ms. Rich after the lecture, giving her recommendations of films to watch.

“For a lot of people, myself included, the ability to engage with the community without outing oneself or getting to know the community is a big thing for a person like me,” said Cope.

Jun Rendich-Millis ’19, who is also a student in Professor White’s class, attended the lecture as well sharing his notion of selectivity in “Queer Cinema”.

“I think the notion of “queer collectivity” is often idealized, failing to take into account intersectionality and the myriad differences between people, even within queer communities. Rich proposed that this might have to do with the rise of postmodernism and the end of the prevailing notion of a master narrative. I would agree with this, and add that the acknowledgement of intra community tensions and resulting alienation is also manifesting in film,” said Rendich-Millis

Though Rich calls this lecture a “work in progress,” the lecture as well as her book “New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut” are working in tandem with the rise of social media to close the generation gap, which was visible in those who attended the lecture, so that those interested in “New Queer Cinema” can become acquainted with the independent films that opened up the topic to both viewers of homosexual and heterosexual identifications, and broaden the selection and availability of films tackling such topics beyond the films and television shows of recent times.  

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