Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives (1992)

Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives (1992) directed by Lynne Fernie and Aerlyn Weissman is a Canadian Feminist documentary about the lives of Lesbians during the 1940’s and 1950’s. For those who do not know, during the 1940’s to at least the 1960’s being a Lesbian or Gay was illegal and coming out could land a person in a mental institution or jail. Through interviews and footage the filmmakers tell the story of how these women were forced to lived double lives. At work they pretended to be “normal” heterosexual women, then at  secret Lesbian clubs they could finally be themselves. The majority of the Lesbians in the documentary are white, but one of the women is Native Canadian. She talks about how she was actually more comfortable in the Black bars.

The documentary has a second layer involving the Lesbian Pulp Fiction novels of the 1940’s and 1950’s. The women in Forbidden Love talk about how there were many Lesbian Pulp Fiction novels, but by the end of these stories,  the Lesbians always died or were separated forever. The now older Lesbians discuss how they wished for a story where the women like them had a happy ending. The filmmakers Fernie and Weissman directed a short film that subverted the tragic end of Lesbiana in these Pulp Fiction novels. This is the only fictional part of the piece, but is equally as important as the interviews.

I recommend Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives to fellow Lesbians (though this is recommend to anybody no matter gender or sexuality) who want to see the invisible history of these secret bars — as well as any readers who is interested in Canadian Cinema, indie documentaries, historical documentaries, subversive queer films, documentaries by Lesbians about Lesbians, and loves films that mix genres.

This clip is the short film that re-writes the sad Lesbian Pulp Fiction novel that punished these women for loving other women. Instead these Lesbians get a happy ending after meeting at a bar.

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