Dark and Lovely, Soft and Free

2000 | Black/African American / Body Image / Coming Out / Documentary / Gender / Homophobia / Human Rights / Race and Culture / Sexuality / Social Issues / Spirituality / Transgender | 52m | South Africa | Brazil
Directors: Paulo Alberton, Graeme Reid

Dark and Lovely, Soft and Free follows a network of queer hairstylists and their friends through small towns, rural areas, and urban peripheries in South Africa. A project of the Gay and Lesbian Archives of South Africa, the 2000 film was linked to co-director Graeme Reid's doctoral research on hair salons as gay social and cultural spaces.

Presenter Zakhi Radebe, and behind-the-scenes directors Paulo Alberton and Reid travel thousands of miles through the provinces of Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the Free State, the Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. On this road trip they and the audience meet stylists who are also preachers, chorists, traditional healers, beauty queens, and socialites. Through them, viewers discover the creative possibilities for creating queer spaces in the South African countryside. The documentary provides a vision of acceptance and celebration, in contrast to the dominant homophobia in much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Dark and Lovely, Soft and Free is a co-production of Franmi Productions (Brazil), the Gay and Lesbian Archives of South Africa, and Vidiola.

Reviews and Awards

“An excellent resource not just for LGBT studies, but also for African or Africana studies more broadly.

—Marc Epprecht Dept of Global Development Studies, Queen's University, Canada