Yesterday was International Day of Democracy and because I had no time yesterday I ended up watching the suggested film, Pride, today. There are spoilers as always, but the film is historically based so you should really get out and watch this or read up on it!
When I first heard about the film, I expected it to be about gay rights rather than anything to do with democracy. With it opening with a gay pride parade I remained a little confused. It is not what I would necessarily define as specifically about democracy, but processes that exist in a democratic society, such as marches and strikes.
I didn’t know anything about this historical narrative at all and hadn’t even read anything about the film before I watched it and I found the whole thing extremely interesting. Although I knew homosexuality was taboo and frowned upon at the time, the brutality that they faced was not something I was aware of, not to mention the similarity with the brutality towards the miners. Gallup polls at the time consistently showed the supporters of the strikes as a minority, decreasing as the year went on. The unions couldn’t afford to support the minors with the same money they would have received if they were working and so fundraising was incredibly important. The majority of fundraising groups were wives of the miners, furthering the cause of feminism, and prominently Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), which is the focus of this film.
A fundamental point put across early on in the film is the humble humanity of LGSM: they have been brutally treated for the sexuality and owe nothing to anyone, yet decide to raise money for others being treated brutally. The stigma over their sexuality is clear from the start what with the treatment during the Pride Parade and the lack of support from central miners’ groups over receiving donations from the gay community. For the determined group this was not going to stop them and choosing a specific mining community to support was the step that would help change gay rights for the better.
History mixes with comedy as Dai Donovan meets the group, not realising what LSGM stood for, but his acceptance does not prevent a frosty welcome for the group as they travel to Wales. It really emphasises the hostility towards gay people and the change of heart for the community is particularly special because of this. Sian James, who later went on to become an MP, is fantastic in turning the community around, as are most of the other women. The personalities of the small Welsh town of Onllywn are truly brought to life by a stellar cast featuring Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy, all speaking in fantastic Welsh accents.
Timid Joe was a really great audience surrogate and seeing his reaction to the pride parade and relaxation that developed throughout the film was really heartwarming. I’m disappointed that his character does not actually exist though. His role is one of a young man exploring his sexuality and coming to terms with the fact that he is gay. He comes from Bromley and travels up to London, showing the viewer how much the cause means to him, especially as he uses the pretence of going to college to hide his activities from his parents. The parental reaction to finding out he is gay, via cuttings and photos found within a book of nursery rhymes is heartbreaking, and throws him into virtual house arrest, far away from his friends and support network.
Merging the gay community with ‘normal’ societies is a key theme, explored both with LGSM visiting Wales and the Welsh visiting them in London. The whole idea of the Welsh community experiencing gay culture for the first time is somewhat alien to us in the 21st century as sexualities are more free nowadays, but the realisation that they are normal people who happen to be part of a subculture is something odd for the 80s.
The ultimate scene in the film came close to its end with the 1985 London Pride Parade. Having stumbled into Brighton Pride this year, I have some recognition of how much goes into the event and the sheer volume of people involved. Of course, no one in 1985 expected quite so many Welsh miners to join in and therefore lead the march! It was so well crafted and almost made me cry to see such unity within a parade that can seem quite exclusive to those who are flamboyantly homosexual, especially when those watching are under the assumption that everyone involved is gay. Showing what happened to prominent figures in the film was fantastic and it clearly was a turning point for both miners and homosexuals, as the Miners Union influenced the inclusion of gay rights into Labour’s manifesto.
A funny, beautifully crafted and informatively historical masterpiece, Pride deserves to be shouted about proudly from the rooftops! This film is amazing, five stars!
The next film in my Into Film Project will be Ghandi for International Day of Peace on Monday (21st)