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Tongues Untied (1989)

Marlon Riggs , Marlon Riggs  |  NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Marlon Riggs
  • Directors: Marlon Riggs
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Strand Releasing
  • DVD Release Date: March 18, 2008
  • Run Time: 55 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00114XLZA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,408 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Tongues Untied" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Marlon Riggs`s portrayal of homophobia and racism caused controversy during Tongues Untied`s original 1991 airing on PBS`s P.O.V. series and contributed to the national debate about the National Endowment for the Arts funding for art with nudity, gay themes, and pointed political commentary.

Riggs`s stories are fierce examples of homophobia and racism: the man refused entry to a gay bar because of his color; the college student left bleeding on the sidewalk after a gay-bashing; the loneliness and isolation of the drag queen. The stories also affirm the black gay male experience: protest marches, smoky bars, snap divas, humorous musicology, and vogue dancing.

Special Features:: · A 1991 interview with Director Marlon T. Riggs
· Interviews with Issac Julien, Filmmaker; Phill Wilson, AIDS Activist; Juba Kalamka, Spoken Word and Rap Artist; Herman Gray, Cultural Critic
· Seven minutes of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
· Closed captioning for the hearing impaired

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That was then... April 13, 2008
There was a definite feeling of hope among people in the black gay community in London when I first saw a screening of this groundbreaking documentary back in the early 90s. I know I'm not the only one who felt that sense of hope because my contemporaries and I talked about it all the time. We felt that we could actually see a day that would come, in our lifetimes, when there would be a mass black gay rights movement. A day when it would be possible for all of us to be black, gay, out and proud. Well, that was then.

On a personal level, the screening came at a time when I was still coming to terms with my own sexuality and struggling somewhat. The documentary (and my fleeting meeting with Hemphill, who attended the screening) changed how I was to feel about myself as a black gay man forever. After seeing it available for years and years on (exorbitantly priced) VHS only, I was over the moon when I learned it was finally to be released on DVD. I ordered my copy immediately.

Filmmaker Marlon T. Riggs produced an angry, defiant and in-your-face piece of work that was revolutionary in more ways than just the one. For starters, it reportedly unleashed a huge backlash from the Christian right in the US and Federal funding for the arts came under a real threat. Largely using the poetry of Essex Hemphill, who also appears in the piece, (Is it a documentary or is it a piece of art? I'm still not really 100% sure), along with storytelling, dramatisations, song, dance & movement, and talking heads mostly against a pitch-black background, Riggs lays it all out on what it meant to him to be a black gay man back in the late 80s.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie January 23, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
I could identify with many of the thoughts, poems and portrayals in the movie. Being in the life, I could certainly see where they were coming from. They talked about everything from going to white clubs, the art of snapping, vouging (it never died, ..., we started it and we're still doing it). This movie is just great. If you're a black gay /SGL/ homosexual/ whatever-you- wanna-deem-yourself male you MUST watch this movie. I love this film. It'll make you think and laugh and make you proud to be who YOU are.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marlon kills the silence! September 4, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
I always feel better about being Black and gay after viewing TONGUES UNTIED.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally on DVD! March 4, 2008
If "Looking for Langston" and "Paris Is Burning" are on DVD, then it's about time that this is as well.
This may make past viewers teary. Both the artists on the cover of this documentary died of AIDS-related causes more than a decade ago.
This work speaks about voguing, snapping, gay racism, Black homophobia, being a double minority, and many other issues very relevant to Black, gay men. Some thought it was sexist that Black lesbians are not included; however, others say it would be problematic if Black gay men were speaking for Black lesbians. This documentary talks about many dynamics that affect men mostly or solely.
To some, this may seem old-school or essentialist. There's all this focus on "the down low" nowadays. However, this documentary showed Black men who were proud of being gay and were open about it.
Viewers who enjoy this visual work may want to read "Brother to Brother," edited by Essex Hemphill, one of the men on the cover.
This documentary was revolutionary when it premiered. Jesse Helms and Far Right politicians attacked it greatly a few decades ago. This is an important factor in the "culture wars" pre-Bill Clinton.
You can't fail by seeing and owning this magnificent work.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars truth and raw power August 12, 2008
Being a gay black man in his 20s and out on his own left me with nothing more to be besides being invisible or the sex toy of older men from Beverly Hills. All I had as inspiration for identity were the poems of Essex Hemphill and Blackberri. There were other gay men of color in the West Hollywood clubs, but they provided nothing but attitude (I later learned that I was competition). I'd heard of Tongues Untied through the years but was so busy trying to prove to my friends that I wasn't insane in trying to explain and understand the racism I've experienced in the gay community. I had just finally watched this the other day and I have only myself to blame for not picking this up earlier. It would have caused a lot less grief in my life. Marlon Riggs had not only taken the documentary form to new heights but his message rings true of the experience of the gay black, who have been termed the guys with the `double whammy' much of which I still face today as a gay black man in his 40s. This powerful film speaks volumes in the experience of a group of men who must contend not only with black America and white America, but also gay white America. We must learn to voice ourselves, love ourselves and continue to build a stronger kinship and a community within a community that few ever really want to see or hear about. Marlon Riggs, Joseph Beam, Essex Hemphill among others have provided the foundation for pride and beauty. It's up to us to carry on that tradition because, quite frankly, if given the opportunity we've been given then gay black men will only be heard through the whispers of that allowance or the mistaken anger/whining booming from our expression. This movie is a must-see...not only for black gay men but for gay men period.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Important today as in the past
Excellent film. Riggs' experimental approach captivates as well as provokes. Would recommend this film to everyone who is interested in the intersectionality of identities.
Published 5 months ago by Stephanie Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 out of 10!
Completely realistic and not at all an exaggeration, A perfect representation of the lifestyle that the act of homophobia implemented on minorities who didn't fit their idea of... Read more
Published 7 months ago by drefrancis
5.0 out of 5 stars Racism in the Gay Community
Marlon Riggs film explores racism within the Gay community and how many African-American Gay cope with the situation.
A powerful film and message.
Published 8 months ago by daDA
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must See
I loved the history that was shared. It affirms pride, courage, and vision. I believe families will benefit from this presentation.
Published 14 months ago by Accepted
5.0 out of 5 stars great!
This is a good product. I like it. This is a good product. I like it. This is a good product. I like it. This is a good product. I like it.
Published 20 months ago by Photographer and book/music lover
3.0 out of 5 stars Just okay
Maybe I was misunderstood the purpose of this film, but it was just okay. Actually, I wanted to fast forward through parts but I stuck it out.
Published 21 months ago by clcraw1
2.0 out of 5 stars paris is burning...
If you like vintage documentaries, that are sad, because you know everyone is pretty much dead now, then tbis one is for you
Published on September 15, 2012 by elia21
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent documentary!
I deeply appreciated the single sincerity of this production, presented in a very musical style. For all those who are interested in the effects of double repression and... Read more
Published on October 12, 2011 by John Huffman
5.0 out of 5 stars Different ....
This DVD compliment my collection of black gay videos in a serious way. It gives a detailed account of various segments within the culture.
Published on July 10, 2011 by caliboij
5.0 out of 5 stars Blast from the past!
I saw this PBS special when it mad alot of noise back when GAY & BLACK was a taboo subject. It is Pre-AIDS. Otherwise, for the most part it still holds up. R.I.P. Read more
Published on January 23, 2009 by M. Bell
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