WORTH A LOOK?: *****
This year is the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in private in England and Wales between adult males.
- Read on for reasons including all the details of the Opening Night Gala in the BFI Flare Festival
The 1967 Sexual Offences Act became law a decade after Daily Mail journalist Peter Wildeblood (brought vividly to life here by the excellent Daniel Mays) was the only homosexual to give evidence to the government’s Wolfenden Committee about the harsh realities of gay life in this country.
Wildeblood had been convicted of homosexual offences with his friends Lord Montagu and Michael Pitt-Rivers in the 50s and jailed. This film is based on Wildeblood’s factual book of the same name about his life at that time.
Wildeblood meets camp gay Fanny (Paul Keating, fabulous here and so memorable at the Arcola last year in Kenny Morgan) and later the man he will fall in love with and who will betray him in court to save his skin in that infamous trial.
Particularly memorable is a scene where a prison doctor (chillingly played by Mark Gatiss) talks about the various aversion therapies available to Wildeblood including electric shock treatment and administration of a chemical inducing nausea with the patient being forced to wallow for days in their own vomit and excreta.
If this all sounds rather heavy for a film to be aired on the BBC in July, there were many laughs (as well as tears) at the Opening Night Gala of the BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival, which runs until 26/3.
The film, unusually, includes testimony from a chorus of men about their experiences of the time. Who didn’t shed a tear when a former Navy officer admitted betraying an Army lover who later killed himself?
A round of applause was earned when one real-life witness explained he knew all about the Wolfenden Committee because he had been having an affair with the chairman’s son.
Much has changed in the last half a century and for that we must all be thankful. Documenting a change that paved for the way for full equality in this country makes for a remarkable and thought-provoking film that never fails to spark emotion or shy away from the horrors of a very recent past.