›› Freedom: 50 Years of Pride ‹‹

a documentary by Stephen Daldry.

2022 | 68 mins | UK.

an uplifting celebration of sexual Pride and political activism.

Dave says:

Celebrating 50 years since the first Pride march took place in the United Kingdom, this insightful documentary has a lot to say and say it with Pride it does, in the process pausing at pivotal moments in our fight for freedom and equality.

For let us not forget the times that were half a century ago; namely a period when homophobia and outright violence toward homosexuals was rife and that was just from the police, let alone the public at large. Yet into an era of almost institutionalized shame felt by many for being gay, came the exact opposite; that of taking PRIDE in being gay when members of the then Gay Liberation Front marched through the streets of London on the 1st July, 1972. Far removed from the mega Pride festivals of today, with less than 2,000 people having taken part, ending with a picnic in Hyde Park, such small steps were but a clear signal that "we're here, we're queer and we're not going away".

London Pride was however just the start for addressing the many issues that lay ahead, not only in confronting the appalling homophobia of the time, but equally in challenging the legal age of consent that since 1967 had been 21 years of age for homosexuals, but thanks to the tireless work of Stonewall, together with three out 'n' proud young men and the result of a ruling at the European Court, was eventually lowered as a compromise to 18 in 1994, before an equal age of consent of 16 for all was finally secured in 2001.

True, any documentary of this nature would find it difficult to summarize fifty years of campaigning and Pride marches into less than seventy minutes. Thankfully, here award-winning theatre director Stephen Daldry of Billy Elliot fame does a valiant effort, in the process throwing away the blinkers to shine the spotlight on the darker side to Pride and the at times, bitter in fighting between various colours of the rainbow. At too, this work details the 'hit' that Pride took when the onset of AIDS resulted in a public wrath against homosexuals, at a time when all too many gay men and woman were either fighting for their very lives, or mourning the loss of friends and loved ones, but who are still remembered to this day in countless candlelit vigils.

Filmed at a recent Pride celebration that took place at the famed Royal Vauxhall Tavern in south London, one that included performances from the like of Olly Alexander ('Freedom' by George Michael), Holly Johnson ('The Power of Love') and Tom Robinson singing his Pride anthem 'Glad To Be Gay', amongst others, what is apparent throughout this informative, uplifting, yet equally poignant documentary were the seemingly never ending battles for the sexual freedoms that we take for granted today. Not least of which came in righting the wrong of Margaret Thatcher's shameful Clause 28; that of the banning of the so-called 'promotion of homosexuality' that would become as embarrassing for the Tories, as it was offensive to us, prompting Ian McKellen to publicly out himself in outrage to the legislation.

Stonewall was formed, more marches and campaigns followed, as too did many a legal victory, including the scrapping of the abhorrent Clause 28 complete with a public apology for the then Prime Minister David Cameron, the legal right for openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces, to that of the introduction of civil partnerships, following by gay marriage itself.

Yet as this work documents, as the Pride events grew ever larger, so too did the corporate sponsorship and ticketed fees needed to fund them, resulting in a thin line being drawn between profit and the very reason Pride came into being. Indeed, with more than a million people having taken part in the 50th anniversary of the UK's first Pride march in London, thanks in part to the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, perhaps it's no surprise than many feel that the message of Pride is now being best delivered, not by the mega Pride festivals, but by smaller scale events that bring Pride to areas of the UK in which the LGBTQ+ community often feel like they're the only one in the village. That this includes sister events like Black Pride, Trans Pride etc., is but a reflection of the diversity of the rainbow itself, with each playing their part in preaching the sermon of taking pride in whoever you want to be.

Intercut with a series of all too brief contributions from the likes of Ted Brown, Andrew Lumsden, Ian McKellen, Lisa Power and Peter Tatchell, to name but a few, with some at times seeing a younger archive version of themself on the Tavern's projection screen, there's no doubt that Pride and gay rights in the UK have come a long way since that first march took place some fifty years ago. But as we enjoy the party side to Pride, complete with all of those fabulous Mardi Gras styled floats and outfits, it's vital that its political activism continues too, in particular given the sickening reality that homophobia in the UK hasn't gone away and in spite of more openly gay men and woman being in the media than what you can shake your TV remote at, is still sadly all too alive and literally kicking. All of which makes it crucial that Pride remains a safe environment for one and all and moreover that we respect the sexually diversity of everyone who takes part in this joyous celebration of to thy ownself, being true. Simply wondrous.

›› a Channel 4 premiere: Saturday, 2nd July, 2022: 8:00pm to 9:30pm.
›› posted: Sunday, 3rd July, 2022.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - bare-arsed cheek | Overall - file under ... 4 stars

›› copyright © 2022 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com ‹‹
›› archive reference #2022020 ‹‹
donations are the lifeblood of Gay Celluloid;
every drop helps keep it online - thank you :)