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Performing Arts History & Criticism

Fire

A Queer Film Classic

by (author) Shohini Ghosh

series edited by Thomas Waugh & Matthew Hays

Publisher
Arsenal Pulp Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2010
Category
History & Criticism
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9781551523637
    Publish Date
    Nov 2010
    List Price
    $14.95

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Description

Fire: A Queer Film Classic delves into the controversial 1996 lesbian love story by Indian-born director Deepa Mehta. Set in a contemporary middle-class Hindu household in the heart of Delhi, Fire is the story of Radha and Sita, the wives of two brothers, who fall in love with one another. Crisis overtakes the extended family when a servant discovers the relationship and tells one of the husbands; overcoming both a literal and allegorical "trial by fire," the two women leave their marriages to make a life together.

The film premiered to great acclaim in 1996, and travelled the international circuit before being finally released in India in 1999. The consequences of the film's Indian premiere were both profound and provocative: outraged by the film's explicit depiction of a lesbian relationship, protesters went on a rampage, tearing down posters, vandalizing cinemas showing the film, and disrupting screenings in Delhi and Bombay, setting off a maelstrom of public discourse on issues such as homosexuality and freedom of speech in India. Director Deepa Mehta and the two leading actresses were targeted for attack and harassment by extremists of the Hindu Right.

This book examines the controversy that divided a nation, but which ultimately led to counterprotests among the film's supporters, resulting in its successful and uninterrupted run in Indian theaters. The book also considers Fire's scathing attack on both heterosexism and Hindu practices in India that oppress and marginalize women, as well as its revolutionary treatment of female characters, whose traditional duties are imbued with an unprecedented sensuality.

The QUEER FILM CLASSICS series, begun in 2009, consists of critical yet populist monographs on classic films of interest to LGBT audiences written by esteemed film scholars and critics. The series is edited by authors Thomas Waugh (Out/Lines, Lust Unearthed) and Matthew Hays (The View from Here).

About the authors

Shohini Ghosh is Professor at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, a university in New Delhi. Tales of the Night Fairies, her documentary on the sex workers' rights movement, made a strong intervention in debates on sex work. She writes on contemporary media practices and sexuality.

Shohini Ghosh's profile page

Thomas Waugh is the award-winning author or co-author of numerous books, including five for Arsenal Pulp Press: Out/Lines, Lust Unearthed, Montreal Main: A Queer Film Classic (with Jason Garrison), Comin' At Ya! (with David L. Chapman) and Gay Art: A Historic Collection (with Felix Lance Falkon). His other books include Hard to Imagine, The Fruit Machine, and The Romance of Transgression. He teaches film studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, where he lives. He has published widely on political discourses and sexual representation in film and video, on lesbian and gay film and video, and has more recently undertaken interdisciplinary research and teaching on AIDS. He is also the founder and former coordinator of the Minor Programme in Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality at Concordia.

In addition to the titles below, Thomas is also co-editor (with Matthew Hays) of the Queer Film Classics series.

Thomas Waugh's profile page

Matthew Hays is a Montreal-based critic, author, film festival programmer, and university instructor. He is the co-editor (with Thomas Waugh) of Arsenal Pulp's Queer Film Classics series. He has been a film critic and reporter for the weekly Montreal Mirror since 1993. His first book, The View from Here: Conversations with Gay and Lesbian Filmmakers (Arsenal Pulp Press), was cited by Quill & Quire as one of the best books of 2007 and won a 2008 Lambda Literary Award. His articles have appeared in a broad range of publications, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, Vice, The Walrus, The Advocate, The Toronto Star, The International Herald Tribune, Cineaste, Cineaction, Quill & Quire, This Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, Canadian Screenwriter, and Xtra!. He teaches courses in journalism, communication studies and film studies at Concordia University, where he received his MA in communication studies in 2000. A two-time nominee for a National Magazine Award, Hays received the 2013 Concordia President's Award for Teaching Excellence. .
Matthew is also co-editor (with Thomas Waugh) of the Queer Film Classics series.

Matthew Hays' profile page

Editorial Reviews

Arsenal Pulp Press's Queer Film Classic series has established itself as the premiere source of critical acumen about queer film. This year's titles - three inaugurated the series in 2009 - combine scholarship with cultural context, assessing the films sometimes almost scene-by-scene and always with an eye as to what makes the movies relevant both historically and contemporaneously.
-Richard Labonte, Book Marks

Book Marks

Other titles by Thomas Waugh

Other titles by Matthew Hays