“I was angry because my whole generation didn’t know about this.”

in belittlement Blue jeans Director Georgia Oakley shows how a high school teacher in 1988 England struggles with anti-gay legislation. “I was angry because my entire generation didn’t know about this.”

Joost Brurin Hotinga

On May 24, 1988, Section 28 of the Local Government Act came into force in the United Kingdom. This clause in the Municipal Commitments to School Facility Ordinances prohibits “the intentional promotion of homosexuality” and “the teaching of homosexuality as a potential family relationship”.

It was anti-gay legislation in a roundabout way, introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government. The law remained in effect until November 2003, but after a storm of protest over its implementation, it was largely invisible to the general public. After the repeal, Section 28 was quickly and easily forgotten.

With her first feature film Blue jeans Director Georgia Oakley, 35, wants to save the law from oblivion. The film is set around the introduction of Section 28 in 1988 and revolves around lesbian high school teacher Jane (Rosie McEwen). A new law forces her to build a high wall between her private life and her work — a wall that gets punched when she encounters student Lois (Lucy Halliday) at a gay bar.

The grim culture of silence

Oakley said at the Venice Film Festival, where Blue jeans It premiered last year and won the Audience Award in the Giornate degli Autori side-show. Only a few years ago I discovered the existence of this law. That’s why I wanted to make the movie. I was angry because my entire generation didn’t know about this. This should not be forgotten.”

Oakley herself is gay and upon learning of Section 28’s existence, all sorts of puzzle pieces from her childhood fell into place. “When I think about my school days, there were no openly gay teachers and no students who came out. There was a very dark culture of silence. That’s what the movie shows, too.”

For a long time, that worked, Oakley says. She knows this from her own experience and saw it in her own generation. “Many women I know have come out much later than they would like. This is a direct consequence of this law. I know a lot of women around my age who only came out in their 20s, not as teenagers, when they already knew they were gay.”

Director Georgia Oakley.Image Thomas Lunis/Getty Images

After Louis and Jean spot each other in this bar, they discover something about each other that throws school life over the edge for both of them. “Now that Jane knows Lois knows she’s a lesbian, she can no longer go about her job with an open mind,” Oakley explains. “Every time she touches a female student she is very self-conscious about it. In the build-up to the film, people often ask us if Jean and Louis are sexually attracted to each other. But that is not what the film is about. It is about a different kind of energy between them, which comes from perception Excessive how the other person perceives you.”

Isolation and togetherness

While Section 28 hindered students like Lewis from developing their sexual identities, the law often meant a kind of isolation for gay teachers—and not just in school, where they had to hide parts of themselves. Blue jeans It shows how upset some of Jan’s gay friends are that she hasn’t spoken up.

“In researching the film, we spoke to many activists, the women who took to the streets to protest Section 28,” Oakley said. As a result, they also had all kinds of positive memories of that period; It was a moment of togetherness in the queer community. But the teachers were there. They couldn’t go to demonstrations, they couldn’t wave banners because everything was filmed and if they were seen their jobs would be on the line.”

Blue jeans It also shows how Section 28 can in some cases have the opposite effect than intended. While the law was designed to force homosexuals to conceal their orientation, it unleashes activity in Jean that she previously felt no need for.

Jin is not active at the beginning of the movie. For example, she said to her friend Viv, “Not everything is political.” I wanted to make a movie about a woman who just wants to live a very ordinary life — an ordinary job, an ordinary house, a normal relationship with her family. But this made it impossible. You can’t be in two worlds at the same time.”

A staged version of reality

Georgia Oakley was born in July 1988, two months after Section 28 was introduced. So she had to do extensive research to conjure up the right atmosphere, even though the facts weren’t necessarily sacrosanct. “There were some things that I thought it was really important to recreate very accurately, like if we had shot a documentary back then. The communal showers in the school gym, for example — nowadays there are individual booths. But for the movie As a whole, I wasn’t looking for a very realistic style. Rather a somewhat staged version of reality. We also gave ourselves a lot of artistic liberty in this. For example, the korfball costumes worn by the schoolgirls are made of pink and blue silk – I’ve played korfball myself after Not too long ago, it just looked really different. The movie had to feel almost like the ’80s, but I also wanted it to have something timeless about it.”

Blue jeans

direction Georgia Oakley
to Rosie McQueen, Lucy Halliday
to see Cinecenter, FC Hyena, Filmhallen, Tuschinski, Het Ketelhuis, The Movies, Rialto, Studio / K

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