Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 85 min
National Film Board of Canada
Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives is a rich and rewarding look at the lesbian subculture of the fifties and sixties as expressed through the lived experiences of women and the lurid and often amusing pulp novels of the period. Books such as Women of Evil, Man Hater and Lesbians in Black Lace are presented as key to the development of lesbian consciousness in the fifties, historical markers of the undocumented history of lesbian lives.
Punctuating the film with lush, fictional sequences of woman-to-woman love – stylishly staged with actors in fifties’ pulp-novel style – directors Aerlyn Weissman and Lynne Fernie weave a complex oral history recounted by ten women of various racial backgrounds, from both urban and rural communities, who range in age from forty to seventy. Still vibrant and rebellious, these women speak eloquently and often hilariously of their first loves, last husbands, heavy butch/femme scenes, racism, knife fights, police harassment, job ghettoization and disappearing lesbian landmarks.
The film received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film (Documentary) and won a Genie Award for Feature Length Documentary. It also drew a large audience outside gay and lesbian circles; the CBC broadcast attracted more than half a million viewers.