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LGBT Britain

This colourful and challenging collection explores screen representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lives over the past century.

British cinema boasts a long history of carefully coded queerness, but for much of the 20th century explicit depictions of gay life in drama or documentary were more or less taboo. Gay men were subject to vicious state-sanctioned persecution, while lesbians were socially ostracised and the transgender community ignored and misunderstood. Cinematic and small-screen breakthroughs in the 1950s and 60s played their part in the public debate. Finally acting on the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee a decade earlier, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised male homosexuality in England and Wales, between two men over 21, in private. As those caveats suggest, the legislation remained problematic. But it was a step forward, paving the way for further battles - some yet to be won. From early glimpses of 'queer' characters, this collection charts the path towards '67 and beyond, through responses to the AIDS crisis to diverse reflections on queer life today.

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What's a Girl Like You ...
What's a Girl Like You ...
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What's a Girl Like You ...

Documentary19690 minsSilent Location: Vauxhall

Scintillating look at the 1960s drag renaissance, with a visit to London's Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

Gay Black Group
Gay Black Group
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Gay Black Group

Magazine and Review show198325 mins Location: Bloomsbury

The Gay Black Group - reasserting culture and identity on two levels.

David Is Homosexual
David Is Homosexual
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David Is Homosexual

Drama-documentary197638 mins Location: Lewisham

A lonely gay man discovers friends, love and activism in this rediscovered educational film made by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality

What Am I?
What Am I?
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What Am I?

Current affairs198026 mins Location: Hay-on-Wye/Y Gelli Gandryll

Transgender pioneer April Ashley appears in this moving look at the challenges faced by the trans community in 1980s Britain

Illegal Tender
Illegal Tender
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Illegal Tender

Animation & Artists Moving Image198714 mins

Queer psychedelic portrait of a young man’s desires in an industrial wasteland

Facing the Sun
Facing the Sun
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Facing the Sun

Drama198054 mins

Sao Paulo-set love triangle drama, featuring a rare TV depiction of bisexuality.

A Couple of Beauties
A Couple of Beauties
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A Couple of Beauties

Comedy197229 mins

Innuendo-laden crime caper, a star vehicle for Manchester-based drag queen Bunny Lewis

Being Gay in the Thirties (Gay Life)
Being Gay in the Thirties (Gay Life)
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Being Gay in the Thirties (Gay Life)

198135 mins

This edition of LWT's pioneering 1980s TV series looks at gay experience 50 years earlier

The Important Thing Is Love
The Important Thing Is Love
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The Important Thing Is Love

Documentary19710 mins

"I'm no man-hater": lesbian women discuss their lives, relationships and struggles against discrimination in this TV doc

Male Sexuality
Male Sexuality
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Male Sexuality

Factual TV198137 mins

Gay men discuss sexuality, masculinity and relationships in a documentary filmed just before the outbreak of AIDS.

Miss Norah Blaney
Miss Norah Blaney
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Miss Norah Blaney

Musical19329 mins

A risqué music hall ditty uncovers the pioneering gender-bending ways of 1930s young things

Surviving Sabu
Surviving Sabu
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Surviving Sabu

Drama199716 mins

A budding gay filmmaker clashes with his conservative Muslim father as they work on a film about iconic Indian star Sabu

Portrait of David Hockney
Portrait of David Hockney
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Portrait of David Hockney

Documentary197213 mins

Filmed at the time Hockney was painting Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, this compelling study concentrates on the textures and light which surround the artist in his home and studio.

How Percy Won the Beauty Competition
How Percy Won the Beauty Competition
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How Percy Won the Beauty Competition

Comedy19097 minsSilent

Percy drags up to scoop the top prize in this Edwardian short - but will he be found out?

Hints and Hobbies No.11
Hints and Hobbies No.11
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Hints and Hobbies No.11

Cinemagazine192614 minsSilent

Jiu-jitsu for ladies, how to get ink off a white apron and other life essentials courtesy of the 'Hints and Hobbies' team.

The Homecoming: A Short Film about Ajamu
The Homecoming: A Short Film about Ajamu
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The Homecoming: A Short Film about Ajamu

Drama-documentary199517 mins Location: Brixton

Queer activist and artist Ajamu prepares to leave Brixton for an exhibition of his work in his hometown, Huddersfield

Aids: The Last Chance (Part 1)
Aids: The Last Chance (Part 1)
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Aids: The Last Chance (Part 1)

198628 mins

A young Sinéad O'Connor pops up in the first of a two-part This Week special about the spread of AIDS

Aids: The Last Chance (Part 2)
Aids: The Last Chance (Part 2)
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Aids: The Last Chance (Part 2)

Current affairs198627 mins

Government complacency is challenged in the second of a two-part This Week special on the spread of AIDS

Heaven (Gay Life)
Heaven (Gay Life)
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Heaven (Gay Life)

Factual TV198025 mins

The LGBT current affairs series visits the new Heaven nightclub, contrasting it with other parts of London’s gay scene.

At Home with Larry Grayson
At Home with Larry Grayson
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At Home with Larry Grayson

Biopic198326 mins Location: Nuneaton

Affectionate tribute to the camp comedian Larry Grayson, with showbiz friends and highlights from his TV career

The Trial of Sir Roger Casement
The Trial of Sir Roger Casement
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The Trial of Sir Roger Casement

Drama-documentary196052 mins

Peter Wyngarde plays the gay British diplomat turned Irish nationalist, executed for treason in 1916

Eros Erosion
Eros Erosion
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Eros Erosion

Animation & Artists Moving Image198941 mins

A meditation on transcience, trauma and taboo in the cruel wake of the AIDS epidemic

We Who Have Friends
We Who Have Friends
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We Who Have Friends

Documentary196949 mins Location: London

A fascinating and important film on attitudes towards homosexuality, and what it was like to be gay, shortly after it was partially legalised.

Scarborough Ahoy!
Scarborough Ahoy!
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Scarborough Ahoy!

Drama199433 mins Location: Scarborough

A straight woman and a gay man cruise their way across North East England in this Tennessee Williams-inspired short.

Michael and Liam
Michael and Liam
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Michael and Liam

Drama197851 mins

A suicidal teen and an openly gay youth strike up an unlikely rapport in a foster home

Battling Bruisers Some Boxing Buffoonery
Battling Bruisers  Some Boxing Buffoonery
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Battling Bruisers Some Boxing Buffoonery

192516 minsSilent

Effeminate fisticuffs from the French in this boxing-themed send-up of foreign stereotypes.

Alfalfa
Alfalfa
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Alfalfa

Documentary19879 mins

The queer alphabet - from AC/DC to Zipper.

21st Century Nuns
21st Century Nuns
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21st Century Nuns

Documentary199410 mins

Street protest tranvestite nuns perpetually indulge in this 1993 doc featuring Derek Jarman.

Tea Leaf
Tea Leaf
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Tea Leaf

Documentary19888 mins

An intimate account of frustration and disarray in 1980s Britain from the point of view of a young woman.

Oxford Housing
Oxford Housing
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Oxford Housing

Current affairs19825 mins Location: Oxford

Against the odds, same sex couples in Oxford get the right to register for council housing, but for how long?

Lesbians (Gay Life)
Lesbians (Gay Life)
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Lesbians (Gay Life)

198134 mins

Gay women from different generations discuss their experiences in this revealing TV documentary

Derek Jarman in Conversation with Simon Field
Derek Jarman in Conversation with Simon Field
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Derek Jarman in Conversation with Simon Field

198932 mins

A far reaching interview with multifaceted artist Derek Jarman, conducted in 1987 by producer and critic Simon Field as part of the ICA Guardian Conversations series.

Roll on Four O'Clock
Roll on Four O'Clock
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Roll on Four O'Clock

Drama197058 mins

Compelling play by the writer of Chariots of Fire, exposing homophobic bullying in a northern secondary modern.

Paralysis
Paralysis
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Paralysis

Drama20169 mins

Struggling with the pressures of homophobia when her partner is taken away by a hateful mother, a young gay woman struggles to cope with the traumas and anxieties of her life.

London 1971
London 1971
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London 1971

Amateur film197115 mins Location: Islington

A gently meandering home movie tour of London, with rare shots of an early Gay Pride march.

Aids: The Victims
Aids: The Victims
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Aids: The Victims

Factual TV198527 mins

Two AIDS sufferers recount their experiences battling the disease and society's misconceptions.

South
South
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South

Drama195980 mins

Peter Wyngarde stars in the earliest surviving gay-themed British television drama, set on a Deep South plantation.

Quentin Crisp
Quentin Crisp
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Quentin Crisp

197027 mins Location: Chelsea

Join the original Naked Civil Servant in his London bedsit for a lesson on life, love and gender politics

The Trial of Oscar Wilde
The Trial of Oscar Wilde
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The Trial of Oscar Wilde

Drama-documentary196051 mins

Gripping TV recreation of Wilde's 1895 trial for gross indecency, starring Micheál MacLiammóir.

Eerie
Eerie
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Eerie

Animation & Artists Moving Image19921 mins

A vertiginous lesbian kiss in a mountain cablecar inspired by German expressionism.

Ballad of Reading Gaol
Ballad of Reading Gaol
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Ballad of Reading Gaol

Documentary198811 mins

Poetic reflection on Oscar Wilde’s testimony at his 1895 trial for gross indecency

Homosexual Equality
Homosexual Equality
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Homosexual Equality

Factual TV197450 mins Location: Westminster

The Campaign for Homosexual Equality is given airtime in the first ever community access series on British TV

A Nosegay
A Nosegay
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A Nosegay

Animation & Artists Moving Image198617 mins

A homoerotic homage to Genet and Lautréamont with an angel and a hermaphrodite.

Orlando

More LGBT Britain films in our Rentals collection.

Victim - Watch on BFI Player

More LGBT Britain films in our Subscription collection.