Unless you or a woman you know was part of the lesbian separatist movement between the 1970s and 1990s, chances are you know very little about lesbian communes. Radicalized gay women with similar goals and interests—mainly, to live apart from men—formed communities across North America during that time, influenced by the women’s movement that was happening in parallel and the civil rights movement that came before it.
In Myriam Fougère’s documentary, Lesbiana: A Parallel Revolution, the Montreal-based filmmaker revisits a journey she took during the 1980s. Thirty years ago, Fougère went on the road in search of lesbian culture. She travelled from Montreal to New York, Michigan, Vermont, and elsewhere in the U.S. and met lesbian writers, artists, and activists at women’s festivals, music and art events, and workshops. Ultimately, Fougère—like other lesbian women at the time—found herself drawn to these underground women-only living communities.
Lesbiana intersperses present-day interviews with women who were involved in the movement with old photos and video footage detailing their experiences 30 years earlier. Some of the interview subjects, including women from Quebec and across the States, recall the moments in which they knew they were gay; others choose to discuss how being a lesbian and living life deliberately away from the male gaze was a political statement.
While Lesbiana is captivating at the start, audiences may lose interest due to the film’s repetitive nature. Fougère uses the same style and types of shots to document her subjects, and many of the interviewees end up telling similar stories and making identical statements. While Lesbiana is meant to be reflective, it often verges on feeling overly sentimental.
Lesbiana: A Parallel Revolution screens at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, at Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas on Wednesday (August 21) at 5 p.m.