Mareel To Launch New LGBT Film Strand

by Alastair Hamilton -

Shetland’s arts centre, Mareel, is to launch a new strand in their cinema programme focused on classic and contemporary films that feature LGBT themes or characters.

The first film in Screen Pride - as the strand is called - is a showing of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, on 23 February, timed to coincide with LGBT History Month. Released in 1994, it’s a hilarious, flamboyant and poignant road movie set in the Australian outback that picked up the Prix du Public at Cannes and an Oscar for best costume design. Directed by Stephan Elliot, it was popular at the box-office and played a part in bringing LGBT themes into the mainstream.

a hilarious, flamboyant and poignant road movie

Jenny Leask, Shetland Arts Cinema Programmer, said: “We were discussing putting on a small season of films for LGBT History Month, and decided it would be better to spread the films out over the whole year. We try to cater for as many different audiences at possible here at Mareel, and this was one area I felt we could improve upon. Of course, our hope is that other people outside the LGBT community will come along to these screenings as well – they have a common theme but, more than that, they’re simply great films.”

Mareel was previously nominated in the Venue of the Year category in the first Scottish LGBTI Awards in 2015. Shetland Arts is the leading arts agency in Shetland. Its programme includes festivals, film, music, theatre, literature, craft, visual arts, dance, and comedy events.

they’re simply great films

The full programme has yet to be confirmed, but other films likely to be included in the season include:

Milk (2008), directed by Gus van Sant, which tells the true story of Harvey Milk, the first gay person to be elected to serve on San Francisco’s city council. Sean Penn, in the title role, won the Oscar for best actor in a leading role and the film won a second Academy Award for best original screenplay.

Gus van Sant also directed My Own Private Idaho (1991), which stars River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves and chronicles their adventures and personal discovery in Idaho and Italy. Critics praised ‘magnetic performances’ and portrayal of the romance as ‘a marvel of delicacy’.

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), directed by Stephen Frears and with a screenplay by Hanif Kureishi, takes us back to south London, exploring some complex relationships and contemporary themes against the background of the Thatcher era.

Carol (2015), directed by Todd Haynes, based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, is set in 1950s New York and is built around the developing relationship between two women. Carol (played by Cate Blanchett) is in the middle of a messy divorce and custody battle whilst Therese (Rooney Mara) has a fragile relationship with her boyfriend.

Tomboy (2011), directed and written by Céline Sciamma, is a French film that won praise for its ‘warmth and heart’ and the portrayal (by Zoé Héran) of a ten year old girl who’s experimenting with her gender identity. The movie won a number of awards, including the main one at the Odessa International Film Festival.

Pride (2014), directed by Matthew Warchus, which impressed and amused audiences when released at Cannes, is based on a true story of solidarity between lesbian and gay activists and South Wales miners during the 1984 strike. It stars Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West and Paddy Considine.

Beautiful Thing (1996), directed by Hettie MacDonald, is another much-praised British film, this time set in Thamesmead, London, and exploring teenage infatuation and its consequences in a complicated family environment. It’s notable for a soundtrack that consists almost entirely of songs by Mama Cass or The Mamas and The Papas.

Appropriate Behavior (2014), an American comedy directed by Desiree Akhaven, follows the fortunes and relationships of Shirin (played by Akhaven), who is the New York-based daughter of affluent Iranian immigrants. One critic praised it as ‘a supremely satisfying and irreverent take on the New York rom-com’.

Weekend (2011), directed by Andrew Haigh, takes us to Nottingham and into the lives of Russell (played by Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), portraying their encounter and addressing the challenges of relationships and coming out; much of the dialogue was improvised. One critic found it ‘heartfelt yet unsentimental...a movie romance that rings true’.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999), directed by Kimberley Peirce, is based on the true story of trans man Brandon Teena, who is played by Hilary Swank; Chloe Sevigny plays Teena’s girlfriend. Her performance won Swank a Best Actress Oscar and a Golden Globe; Sevigny was Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

The Kids Are All Right (2010) was also a Golden Globe winner (Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy). Directed by Lisa Cholodenko, and partly based on her own experiences, it centres on the marriage between Dr Nicole Allgood (Annette Bening) and Jules Allgood (Julianne Moore), their son and daughter and the children’s biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Several critics rated it the best or second-best film of the year.

Mareel has two state-of-the-art cinemas that offer a much better experience than the multiplexes so often found in city centres or retail parks elsewhere in the UK. As well as digital projection and great sound, there are really comfortable seats for everyone and a steep rake gives unobstructed sightlines. The programme includes all the best new releases alongside older classics. As a bonus, performances from National Theatre Live, recorded in various theatres in London’s west end, are also regularly shown. With a great café-bar on the premises (not to mention an excellent concert hall), it’s a deservedly popular venue.

a much better experience

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