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Queer Pagan Punk: Derek Jarman Season at BFI Southbank

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by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
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Subverting Sex and Time
bfi, derek jarman, queer pagan punk
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Derek Jarmon was a British film director born in 1942. Openly homosexual, he used his films to fight for gay rights, and increase the awareness of AIDs and HIV, which he later died from in 1994. Twenty years on, Jarman's films are still highly relevant today, so the BFI is running a two-part season tribute to mark his anniversary.

Jarman was an experimental filmmaker both in terms of style and theme. He had a preference for using super 8mm, which was invented in 1965. Jarman's first feature, Sebastiane was eleven years later, when this format was getting antiquated. Sebastiane is a sexualised retelling about a 4th century Praetorian Guard, who becomes a martyr.

jubilee, derek jarman, bfi
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As well as being considered subversive in sexuality, Jarman liked to subvert film as well. His most famous example is in Jubliee (1978), when he transports Queen Elizabeth I to an alternative 1970s future, where Britain is in ruin. Queen Elizabeth II is dead - killed in a mugging - and London is overrun by groups of punks, cultists, and nihilists.

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Jarman took a temporary break from super 8mm in his most well known film, Caravaggio (1986), a 35mm film which is a fictional re-telling of the Baroque painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, life. But he did not like this method of production, and swiftly returned to his favoured 8mm.

derek jarman, bfi, the tempest
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In the first part of the BFI's Jarman season, Queer Pagan Punk focusses on the director's interest in alchemy and the occult. Films include Sebastaine, Jubilee, Caravaggio, and many others. For example, Jarman The Tempest (1979) is 'considered by some to be the most evocative Shakespeare adaptation ever to reach the screen'.

Part two starts in March, and looks at New Queer Cinema. Jarman continues to play with time by bringing modern props into medieval settings, such as in Edward II (1991). Other screenings include The Last of England (1987), and his final film, Glitterbug (1994). Tickets range from 6-12.10.

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Why? Fun for film lovers
When: Until 17th March
Phone: 020 7928 3232.
Where: BFI Southbank
Cost: 6-12.10
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