Georgia Oakley on Blue Jean

Blue Jean, a period drama about a physical education teacher who faces a new anti-LGBTQ law in the late 1980s, highlights a recent and shocking chapter in British social history. “Something is definitely changing,” director Georgia Oakley speaks of the vision and need for role models.

A ban on “publishing” homosexuality? Then you might think of an Eastern European or American Christian Conservative heart. But such a law was also in force in the United Kingdom up until twenty years ago and is not a relic of the distant past.

Blue jeans

In her feature film debut Blue jeans Director and screenwriter Georgia Oakley looks back at 1988, the year Prime Minister Thatcher introduced the law, and shows how it affects the life of a lesbian gym teacher in Newcastle. It becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the strict wall Jeanne has built around her private life with the arrival of Loïs, a new student in whom Jean becomes aware of her past insecurities.

For Oakley, who was born the year the law went into effect Blue jeans Also a confrontation with the blind spot of her childhood. “As I write, I realize how many friends of my generation come out relatively late in life, in their mid-to-late twenties rather than their teens. I see that as a direct consequence of this law. If you don’t have a role model throughout your school years and nobody shows you how you can Being your life, you wouldn’t even dare think about it.”

In the year Section 28 was repealed, Loïs must have reached the age of the movie. “Right. That law was in effect for most of my school days. But I didn’t know about it because nobody talked about it. I’m setting the movie up in 1988, because there were discussions about it on radio and television at the time. Those conversations centered around the impact of it on the arts. , and the fear that gay-themed books, plays, and artwork were being censored in schools. Famous actors came to talk about it on the radio. That was the angle—it wasn’t about the teacher’s or the student’s experience.
“When I heard about the law, I immediately thought of what it must be like for gay teachers and what effect it would have on my own life. I had conversations with queer women who were working as gym teachers at the time; the script is a mixture of their stories and my experiences as a student. So I wanted to tell not only a story about the teacher, but also the domino effect on the younger generations.
“Lo’s experience is different from mine because she is more daring and discovers who she really is. This allowed me to play with the teacher-student dynamics, where the student becomes a teacher in a certain way. It was inspired by the stories that came out in the interviews; that were peppered with experiences like Jane – when the teachers met their students in a bar and their whole life is suddenly turned upside down.”

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Because of her profession, Jan stands with one foot in a heterogeneous society, while her friend Viv confronts her with her lesbian self-awareness. “I knew what it was like to be the ‘new lesbian’ in the group. Within the queer community, too, there are degrees of heteronormancy and a kind of hierarchy based on it. I knew several couples and one person had more raise the flag The other, for example, has not expressed its sexual orientation in the work. This often led to friction and I thought it would be interesting to blend that dynamic with the experiences of the people I spoke to.
“At the time the movie was set, the two worlds Jean moves through were miles apart. Jean is an anti-hero—many lesbians would look down on someone who, in their eyes, was eating him both ways. On the one hand, she could effect stronger change. she’s much more into her work than if she quit her job and went back to the ghetto of the lesbian community. As a queer person, you don’t always have to put your activism first.”

At school, no one knows that Jane is a lesbian and her sister seems to hope that is something that will pass. Actress Rosy McEwen makes you feel what such environments do to a person: Jean is so wary that it seems as though she has internalized Thatcher-era homophobia. “So I wrote the character, but it wasn’t easy to find someone who could embody it. Until I received[Rosie’s]casting tape. I knew nothing about her, I didn’t know her work. But as soon as she started talking I felt that she understood what I wanted. She was physically able to bring out the stillness of this character, with all the complex emotions that lie beneath. I was looking for someone audiences hadn’t yet seen in other roles, who could truly become the Jean I imagined – someone who knew how to shapeshift like a chameleon. That came a long way. With Rosie; Jane became such that we couldn’t quite believe her when she was herself again at the end of the day of shooting.”

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The movie appears to have been made in the period in which it was shot. I shot it at 16mm, but what else was involved? “I find it interesting that people say it feels authentic, because we deliberately took the liberty of looking for our inspiration on a larger scale. We’ve looked a lot, for example, at the use of color in American films since that time, like Paris, Texas [1984]. I set myself the goal of making something that was rooted at the time, but at the same time connected to things that are happening now. I didn’t want to make a movie that looks like a time capsule, that you can freeze on any frame and then instantly see the time the movie is happening. Between production design, cinematography, costumes, and myself as the director, the conversation has always been about how we can be true to the period without being overly emphatic—that is, without the typical standards of a particular model of television, a particular type of shoe or shoe. a certain hairstyle. Bed Jeans, for example, is inspired by a 1970s American bed and her style of clothing is from Japanese street fashion.”

Why Newcastle? “I noticed while researching that the stories I heard differed from place to place: rural or urban, north or south. I soon found myself focusing on the experiences of women in northern cities. I lived there myself, went to university there and have relatives who come from there. So I knew geography and that was the way I could go back to my own memories of certain places as I wrote.Many of the women there managed, as Jane does, to create a barrier between their personal lives and their work.A river runs through Newcastle, separating her work physically from her private life.And otherwise As it happened in London and Manchester, where the gay community was more integrated into the nightlife, all the gay bars in Newcastle at that time were together in a small area of ​​three intersecting streets:pink triangleThere was nothing else.

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Blue jeans It was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Female Debut along with four other films directed by women. There are many award categories in which women are still underrepresented, but she points out this category every female Class debut that something is finally changing in this generation? “I definitely feel it. Two other projects by female directors are from the same program I’m in Blue jeans It premiered at Sundance and was also co-executive produced by the BBC after the sun [2022] From Charlotte Wells [de uiteindelijke winnaar van die debuut-BAFTA; SK]. I feel that in my team most of them are women making films in the UK. I also participated in a lab for gay filmmakers, which included Alim Khan last year after love And this year, Dionne Edwards Beautiful red dress Originated.
“It is positive that more and more gay filmmakers are able to tell their stories. That after the sun Doing well last year is a big boost; Not just for queer makers, but also for the kind of film accepted as “commercial,” whatever that may be. The huge success of Welles’ film means a lot to what people think a commercially interesting film can look like.”

Sophie Baker

"Award-winning music trailblazer. Gamer. Lifelong alcohol enthusiast. Thinker. Passionate analyst."

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