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Performing Arts History & Criticism

Word Is Out

A Queer Film Classic

by (author) Greg Youmans

series edited by Thomas Waugh & Matthew Hays

Arsenal Pulp Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2011
History & Criticism
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2011
    List Price

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A Queer Film Classic on the groundbreaking 1977 documentary that profiles the lives of ordinary gay men and lesbians of different ages, races, and backgrounds. Word Is Out found a wide audience theatrically and, perhaps more importantly, had a national public-television broadcast. The film provided an intimate portrait of gay men and lesbians, and by doing so, it played a significant role in the then-nascent struggle for gay rights. It premiered six months after Anita Bryant's infamous "Save Our Children" campaign led to the repeal of a gay rights ordinance in Florida, and just as other antigay activists were beginning to copy her tactics elsewhere in the US. With its affable portrait of twenty-six gay men and women, Word Is Out offered an important counterpoint to the homophobic rhetoric that Bryant and others were spreading.

Greg Youmans examines the historical, political, and aesthetic significance of this important film, situating it firmly in its late-1970s context. He also delves beneath the film's surface to explore the backstory of its making, from the complicated relationships among its six filmmakers (three men, three women) to the more than 140 video pre-interviews they conducted in their search for the perfect cast.

Arsenal's Queer Film Classics series cover some of the most important and influential films about and by LGBTQ people.

About the authors

Greg Youmans is a scholar, maker, and programmer of queer film and video. His research focuses on gay and lesbian activist and experimental filmmaking of the late 1970s, in the context of the rise of the religious right and the channelling of gay and lesbian politics into a liberal, rights-based agenda. He also creates an ongoing video series with Chris Vargas, entitled Falling in Love...with Chris and Greg.

Greg Youmans' 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

Youmans' monograph is a work that is filled with richness and contradiction, elements that fill our daily lives.
-Senses of Cinema

Senses of Cinema

Through its reading of this single film, the book advances a compelling and original frame for understanding the political transformations of the late 1970s-showing, quite brilliantly, how movement politics and film aesthetics were inextricably linked ... Youmans is consistently interesting, whether discussing the political significance of the zoom technique in Word Is Out, or relaying an anecdote about one of the 140 video pre-interviews whose subjects did not end up making the final cut. That Youmans gives as much attention to this lost material as he does to the end result is in keeping with his argument that the film's exclusions reveal the defining limits of gay liberalism-and thus the ambiguous heritage of our queer present.
-Film Quarterly

Film Quarterly

[Youmans] sidesteps conventional narrative and is able to leap between ideas in much the same way as the film does, enabling him to draw the reader into a many-layered story almost without them noticing.
-Eye for Film

Eye for Film

Greg Youmans' exploration of the book is serious and playful; full of queer history and film criticism.
-Radar Productions

Radar Productions

Other titles by Thomas Waugh

Other titles by Matthew Hays

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