This review just came in for one of our newly-released Frameline Distribution films, Dark and Lovely, Soft and Free, a documentary about a network of gay hairstylists and their friends in South Africa, who provide an alternative vision of acceptance and celebration rather than homophobia. (Just in time for the World Cup, eh?) Here's what Marc Epprecht, an Associate Professor in the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen’s University has to say:
Dark and Lovely, Soft and Free is a sensitive, humorous and sometimes disturbing documentary written and directed by Paulo Alberton and Graeme Reid (Johannesburg: GALA, 2000). It takes us off the beaten path of urban South African gay life by means of a road trip into the black townships and “rural areas”. There we discover black men whose lives – identities, desires, struggles – press the boundaries of so-called normal sexuality and call into question many of the myths of “real” African masculinity. Interviews include a female-identified sangoma or traditional healer, a “mine wife” with an adopted son (and a heterosexual co-wife!), the mother of a transgender Xhosa man, and several hairdressers. Along the way some painful issues are explored: racism, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and domestic violence. Homophobia is there too, but it is not necessarily as pointed out in the “bush” as a common urban presumption would have it. The point is underscored that hatred and intolerance (rather than homosexual desire) are the real offense against ubuntu, the African philosophy that places loyalty to family and respect for others at its centre. An excellent resource not just for LGBTI studies, but also for African or Africana studies more broadly.Epprecht is also the author of African Heterosexuality?: The History of an Idea from the Age of Exploration to the Age of AIDS (Athens OH: Ohio University Press, Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2008), and Hungochani: The history of a dissident sexuality in southern Africa (McGill-Queen’s U. Press, Oct. 2004) Read more about Dark and Lovely, Soft and Free.