A Lantern Through Your Labyrinth: Out Histories at the Ann Arbor Film Festival

  • Labyrinth


Screening Room - Michigan Theater Thu, Mar 24, 2022 9:15 PM



U-M Spectrum Center




Made possible with support from the U-M Department of Film Television and Media


In celebration of the Ann Arbor Film Festival’s sixtieth year, this program remembers LGBTQ experimental cinema that played the festival throughout its run, from the early seventies to the recent past. Experimental cinema has always been a queer medium. If cinema is a tool that helps us to know who we are, the work of queer experimental filmmakers sheds a light on all that’s confusing, beautiful, and desirous about finding one’s way through gender and sexuality: leaving the tyranny of mainstream formations aside, socially and aesthetically, in the pursuit of queer radiance. James Broughton’s poetic monologue in the film Song of the Godbody describes queer love as providing for his lover “a lantern through your labyrinth,” which we can understand as a kind of eternal companion, a resource for our most sacred self-truth and our sexual passions. This is the work of queer experimental cinema writ large—finding new languages that map out the mystery and beauty of queer lives, an essence and mission found in these seven films. The films return to us having graced Ann Arbor at different points in U.S. history, with the conditions of showing queer lives at all on screen variable and often met with heavy contestation. Welcoming them back in this program, they speak a language of resistance and creation that epitomizes a bountiful heritage of queer artistry.



Conni Beeson 

from the 12th Ann Arbor Film Festival, 1974

USA | 1974 | 13 | 16mm on digital

Beeson satirically critiques the labels and clichés forced upon women using montage, ironic music, and carefully superimposed imagery. While only featuring a glimpse of sex between two women, the bisexual-identifying director’s film sketches a feminist utopia that playfully invites queer readings and resonance.



Curt McDowell

from the 12th Ann Arbor Film Festival, 1974

USA | 1972 | 7 | 16mm film

This short documentary from McDowell profiles a male sex worker, who poses and discusses his life in the director’s own apartment. Given a beefcake glamour by the crisp black-and-white photography, Ronnie is equally an eccentric and engaging persona, part of a beguiling snapshot of San Francisco in the early 1970s.


No No Nooky TV

Barbara Hammer

from the 26th Ann Arbor Film Festival, 1988

USA | 1987 | 12 | 16mm film

Legendary filmmaker Barbara Hammer explores the messy collisions between queer women’s sexuality and technology. With a flood of discordant electronic pixels and 1980s computing language, Hammer’s lively and droll cinematic voice contemplates the ongoing adaptations of intimacy.



Abigail Severance

from the 38th Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2000

USA | 2000 | 17 | 16mm film

Abigail Severance’s narrative short depicts a lesbian woman’s rocky love life with whimsical flair. Evoking the New Queer Cinema movement’s embrace of artifice and postmodern edge, Pump imagines a woman’s body mechanized and detachable, with emotions clumsily resistant to easy physical extraction.


She Gone Rogue

Rhys Ernst

from the 51st Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2013

USA | 2012 | 22 | Digital 

Darling (Zackary Drucker, who also co-wrote the film) embarks on a mystical journey of self negotiation and trans becoming in Rhys Ernst’s mystical kaleidoscope of a film. Reminiscent of the work of Maya Deren, and including appearances from trans icons Holly Woodlawn, Vaginal Davis, and Flawless Sabrina, She Gone Rogue is an odyssey of queer legend.


Last Address

Ira Sachs

from the 49th Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2011 

USA | 2010 | 8 | Digital 

Acclaimed director Ira Sachs (Love is Strange, Frankie) casts a solemn eye on the final homes of artists who died of AIDS-related illnesses. Contemplating loss and the physical remnants of beautiful lives, Last Address mourns and pays homage to a generation.


Song of the Godbody

James Broughton and Joel Singer

from the 17th Ann Arbor Film Festival, 1979

USA | 1977 | 11 | 16mm film

James Broughton’s naked body, filmed in extreme close-up, is rendered abstract and mysterious in an ode to passion and beauty inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman. Warm and earthy cello music accompanies the sensory-rich images, embracing bodies and human intimacy for the true wonders that they are.





Sean Donovan is a doctoral candidate in Film, Television, & Media at the University of Michigan. A specialist in LGBTQ media, Sean researches the intersections of gender, sexuality, and media, focusing on how media is used to grapple with history and group identity. A resident of Ypsilanti, Sean is proud to harness his life-long love of cinema into collaboration with the Ann Arbor Film Festival’s explosion of creativity and experimentation.