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Film Review: Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives

June 30th, 2014     by RJ Vandrish     Comments

National Film Board:

Directors: Aerlyn Weissman, Lynne Fernie Inside Out 24th Annual Toronto LGBT Film Festival

History has not much favoured queer stories, let alone lesbian ones. LGBTQ history is generally not taught in class (and the queers who make it into the books often face being straightwashed). This is why Forbidden Love, a documentary that focuses on Canadian lesbian history in the 50s and 60s, exists. Remastered in HD from its original 1992 release, the film now tells a new generation of the experiences of its queer elders during a time when homosexuality was illegal in Canada.

Framed through fictional narrative styled after the pulp lesbian novels of the 1950s, Forbidden Love features interviews from a handful of queer women who came of age in the middle of the 20th century. These women share informative, funny and heartbreaking stories about their lives and the lesbian scenes of the past. They recount tales of their first loves and searching for a queer community in urban areas. Between their anecdotes and the archival footage, we get a vivid portrait of life as queer women a few generations ago. However, not all queer experiences can be the same. The directors aptly included stories of white women coming out, native experiences of residential schools and approaching the gay bars and community from a black perspective. These accounts are invaluable for providing a rich and nuanced history (or rather, herstory) that isn’t taught in schools. For this reason, Forbidden Love is a crucial work, reminding us not only how far we’ve come but also granting us a much needed perspective as we come together to celebrate Pride this summer.

Tags: film reel

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