Thursday, October 07, 2010

Outfest Legacy Project to restore 1971 Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day footage

Super exciting news on the LGBT Film Preservation front — check out this Outfest announcement (especially the last paragraph — ah, the glamor and excitement of queer film preservation):

"We are thrilled to announce that The UCLA Film & Television Archive in collaboration with the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation has been awarded a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to restore historic footage recorded at the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day in 1971.
Shot by a collective under the name Women's Liberation Cinema (including feminist writer Kate Millett and artist Susan Kleckner), this footage is extremely valuable documentation of one of the earliest events of the LGBT Rights movement: one of the first LGBT Pride marches in history. The restored footage will serve the LGBT community as well as academics and filmmakers seeking archival evidence of an event for which very little moving image documentation exists.
The 16mm film was in Ms. Kleckner's storage locker until 2006 when filmmaker Jenni Olson discovered it.  Ms. Olson delivered the reels to the Legacy Project, a collaborative effort of UCLA Film & Television Archive and Outfest."
The footage is really fantastic and I look forward to eventually seeing it show up in lots of forthcoming LGBT documentaries (when the preservation is done and UCLA/Outfest are able to make it available for stock footage licensing)! It is particularly exciting that there is a lot more footage of lesbians than you often see in archival gay Pride footage. Of course that is probably because it was shot by women!

So, attention documentary filmmakers! Here are some highlights of the footage you're going to want (from my original viewing notes):

  • Woman holding "I Enjoy Being a Dyke" sign and she is also holding a can of Tab! 
  • Pan up to big banner for: Christopher St. Gay Liberation Day 1971.
  • Shot of Radical Lesbians banner (and footage of Kate Millett in peasant blouse, long hair and weird sunglasses — this is just the year after the publication of her landmark book, Sexual Politics and her coming out as bisexual; and before NOW made their official statement in support of lesbian rights). 
  • Shot of yellow "GAY" balloons being blown up.
  • Great shot of a lesbian shooting a 16mm Bolex.
  • Woman holding up a "Come Out" sign.
  • When the march actually begins there is great shot with big banner from the Gay Activists Alliance! 
  • Shot of cheering construction workers.
  • Great shot of flyer on phone pole that says: Christopher Street Liberation Day March & Gay-In Sunday June 27th. And great pan over to front of march with banner on street corner (Prudential Savings Bank). This is probably the best reel - with all the people milling about in front before the start of the march and at least some of them must be recognizable figures in NYC gay movement.
  • End of march at Central Park. So many hippies! So much hand-holding! And so many smokers!


The Back Story of Finding the Film (because I like to reminisce):

In November, 2006 while I was in New York City for the Museum of Modern Art screening of my film, The Joy of Life — read the wildly entertaining account of THAT right HERE — I literally spent an entire day in Susan Kleckner's storage locker digging around trying to find the print and negative of this 1971 documentary called Three Lives (the film had been produced by Kate Millett and I had somewhat randomly mentioned to Barbara Hammer a few months earlier that I was in search of Kate's film and she said I should contact Susan Kleckner, thinking she was the likely holder of the film's original elements). We did find Three Lives in the storage locker (it, too is now in safe keeping at the UCLA/Outfest Legacy Project Collection).

And this Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day footage just happened to be in the same pile of dirty old film cans — it was a total surprise discovery, she had completely forgotten about it. Susan proceeded to tell me about the shooting process and how they had been in the midst of production on Three Lives, they had the camera equipment and the film stock and just decided they would go shoot some of the Liberation Day event.

Sadly, Susan passed away in July, 2010. I only had the chance to meet her that one time; she was extremely gracious, helpful and full of stories about the 70s and Feminism and Art, etc. She was also a photographer and filmmaker in her own right and taught at the International Center of Photography. We are all indebted to her for hanging on to this footage all those years!

It is really exciting that the footage will be preserved. And this is one more great reason to support the Outfest Legacy Project and all their amazing work.

1 comment:

Jenni Olson said...

I love that it was originally called Liberation Day and not Pride — it evokes a much more politicized heritage where I now associate Pride more with corporate sponsorship and apolitical public drinking rather than any connection to civil rights.