When did queer cinema begin? What did it look like before the German New Wave breakthroughs of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Ulrike Ottinger, before the flashpoint of William Friedkin’s Cruising, before its efflorescence in the ’90s? The popular understanding of gay and lesbian film prior to Stonewall—that pivotal moment in 1969—is often one of censorship and subtext, of sad young men and Dietrich in a tuxedo. This survey aims to revise that conception dramatically and from a number of different perspectives, considering homophile auteurs in classical Hollywood, visionary grindhouse offerings, home movies, sapphic vampire pictures, underground camp stylings, and physique films alongside radical formal experiments and lavender touchstones like Leontine Sagan’s Mädchen in Uniform. Charting a course from the late 19th century to the cusp of liberation, the Film Society’s pre-Stonewall program reveals the terrain of early queer cinema as far vaster and more varied than received histories might suggest.

Organized by Thomas Beard.

Exclusive media partner: The Village VoiceCommunity partners: NewFest, Pride NYC. Special thanks to Harry Guerro, Ed Halter, Jenni Olson, Jake Perlin, Bruce Posner, Janet Staiger, Anthology Film Archives, the Bob Mizer Foundation, the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC), Harvard Film Archive, Istituto Luce Cinecittà, the Library of Congress, Milestone Films, the Murnau Foundation, the Museum of Modern Art, the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project for LGBT Moving Image Preservation, the Prelinger Archives, the Swedish Film Institute, and the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.