Dicks & Dykes
Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution
The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) is known for their recognition of the alternative. The Dutch premiere of ‘Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution’ certainly ensures that this reputation stays intact. Focusing on past anarchistic gay culture director, Yony Leyser, aims to explore how the queer and hardcore scene united to establish the ‘queercore’ movement of the 1980s. A cultural rebellion starting in Toronto and spreading internationally.
Written by: Rachel Douglass
From the get-go, the visual style of Queercore is striking and raucous, capturing the gritty aesthetic of 80s punk. Raw, From the get-go, the visual style of Queercore is striking and raucous, capturing the gritty aesthetic of 80s punk. Raw, homemade video footage is combined with explicit doodles and edgy clippings from brash zines, broken up by intimate interviews. Throughout the documentary, the visuals are balanced and the theme stays fairly consistent. The majority of images and videos used, are often outrageous and sometimes overwhelmingly graphic, most likely a shock for those who are completely unaware of the nature of the queer-punk revolution. A particularly memorable video shows a man sucking a strap-on of a female singer on stage – exemplifying the daring behaviour discussed.
The subject matter of the documentary is interesting, a look into why and how ‘queercore’ emerged through the use of music and zines. In the first half an hour, there is an interesting backdrop, with the makers of the defiant Homocore zine describing their experiences and intentions during its creation in the 80s. A look into how a group of impassioned yet angry creatives came together, gives you a clear insight into what their revolution stood for and how they differed from the average punk and gay communities. However, in the general structure of the film there seems to be a certain lack of relevance to some of the areas covered.
It becomes evident that the films objective is to go through different decades, referencing various developments of the scene. Jumping to and from the 70s, 80s and 90s, they use music and various movements – such as Riot Grrrl – to further reinstate their points about defying normal society. The film then becomes almost like a visual list of people, who simply had some connection or opinion about ‘queercore’. Some of these individuals are relevant to the subject matter, being obvious choices of artists and subculture revolutionaries who were directly involved. Others, notably Beth Ditto and filmmaker, Scott Treleaven, are a bit more of a stretch, with more personal speculations on the movement.
At one point it does seem like every argument has been made and, with further repetition, the main message holds a pretty one-sided opinion. The majority of interviewees seemed to show a sense of superiority over the typical punk and gay scenes, due to feelings of exclusion and mistreatment. Many, including main speaker and artist Bruce Labruce, generally have negative opinions on heterosexuality, ‘normal’ gays and other scenes of the time. At one point, a clip shows a woman shouting, “Homosexuality is the opiate of the masses” while the words flash up on the screen. Others question whether gays are becoming too normal, encouraging more exploration in the modern day.
The unconventional and questionable opinions shared throughout the documentary can be a cause of discussion – what does it take to be accepted within our society? Nowadays, the margins are considerably narrower, allowing more space for self-assurance. Yet, the film leaves viewers questioning the limits people have when accepting one another. It is quite obvious that movements supporting sexual freedom and various LGBTQ acceptance were of higher demand in the 80s and 90s. Therefore, the need for extravagance can be lower. It seems these people of the ‘queercore’ revolution have still remained controversial, even today.