Race D'Ep!

Saturday, May 19, 2012, 7:00 pm
Artists Space Books + Talks

55 Walker Street
New York, NY 10013

-Filmmaker Lionel Soukaz and translator Bruce Benderson in attendance-

Lionel Soukaz + Guy Hocquenhem, Race d'Ep! (aka The Homosexual Century), 16mm on digital video, 90min., 1979

Dirty Looks and Artists Space present a new translation, overseen by Bruce Benderson, of the infamous, nearly-banned 1979 pornographic experimental documentary, Race d'Ep! (translating, literally, to Breed of Faggots, previously released in English as The Homosexual Century). Made by the "father of queer theory," Guy Hocquenghem, in collaboration with radical queer filmmaker and provocateur Lionel Soukaz, Race d'Ep traces the history of modern homosexuality through the twentieth century, from early sexology and the nudes of Baron von Gloeden to gay liberation and cruising on the streets of Paris. Influenced by the groundbreaking work of Michel Foucault on the history of sexuality and reflecting the revolutionary queer activism of its day, Race d'Ep is a shocking frank, sex-filled experimental documentary about gay culture's emergence from the shadows.

Race d'Ep caused scandal when it was released in France. The film was censored and classified as a pornographic film under the "X Law." Roland Barthes, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Marguerite Duras, Simone de Beauvoir, Patrice Chéreau, and Cahiers du Cinéma, among others, signed a petition in defense of the film and opposing its persecution and censorship by the government. Michel Foucault wrote a letter to the Ministry of Culture on behalf of Race d'Ep, stating that "this documentary is based on historical research whose seriousness and interest I had the chance to prove," going on to observe, "it seems strange for a film about homosexuality to be penalized when it tries to remember the persecutions of which the Nazi regime has been responsible."

Not screened in this country since its initial American run in the early 1980s, Race d'Ep is an important and exciting film in need of rediscovery. Presented with a new, improved translation, this screening will introduce a contemporary audience to a key work in the formation of queer theory and radical queer culture and politics.

Guy Hocquenghem is a critical theorist, polemicist, novelist, and activist. Hocquenghem is a key figure in the history of gay liberation and in the development of a revolutionary queer politics and culture. Born in 1946, Hocquenghem participated in the 1968 student rebellion in France, joining the Communist Party, before being expelled for homosexuality. A founding member of FHAR (Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action), Hocquenghem had a significant impact on leftist thinking and queer movements in France. His Homosexual Desire, published in 1972, is frequently cited as the first work of queer theory. The Screwball Asses, Hocquenghem's infamous treatise on homosexuality published in a special issue of Recherches entitled, Three Billion Perverts, was published in English for the first time in 2010 by Semiotext(e). His scandalous 1979 film collaboration with Lionel Soukaz, Race d'Ep, released with an accompanying book by Hocquenghem, extends the project of queer liberation found throughout his work. Hocquenghem died of AIDS in 1988, at the age of 41.

Lionel Soukaz, born in 1953 in Paris, is a genuinely revolutionary filmmaker, an unclassifiable and unrestrained originator of the most radical queer cinema. He began making underground short films in Super 8 in 1973, at the age of twenty. Merging pornography and social criticism, these politically and sexually radical films reflect and take influence from the burgeoning queer movements of the post-1968 period, in particular FHAR (Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action). Soukaz organized several gay festivals and the Ministry of Culture shut one down in 1978. His 1979 film collaboration with FHAR founding member Guy Hocquenghem, Race d'Ep, similarly faced state censorship. He responded with the deliberately scandalous IXE, made as a pure provocation against censorship, flouting all the possible grounds for censorship and featuring heroin fixes, sodomy, zoophilia, pedophilia, blasphemy. Soukaz continues to make uncompromising and provocative films. Recent films include his 2002 indictments of criminal American imperialism, I Live in a Bush World and Texas Political Chainsaw Massacre, the boldly sexual Our Assholes Are Revolutionary and Porno Industriel, both from 2006, and a portrait film of acclaimed author Abdellah Taïa, Portrait d'un Ecrivain Marocain a Paris, 2010.

Bruce Benderson is best known for his seventh book, a memoir called The Romanian: Story of an Obsession (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006), which won France's prestigious literary award, the Prix de Flore, in an earlier translation entitled Autobiographie érotique (Rivages, 2004). Benderson is also a literary translator from the French of works by Alain Robbe-Grillet, Philippe Sollers, Pierre Guyotat, Grégoire Bouillier, Tony Duvert, Virginie Despentes, Martin Page, Nelly Arcan and others. He is the author of James Bidgood (Taschen, 1999), about the legendary maker of the cult film Pink Narcissus.

The screening of Race d'Ep will form part of a broader program of events over the weekend, that has been loosely curated around the Three Billion Perverts issue of the journal Recherches, which initially published Hocquenhem's The Screwball Asses, as well as other queer biographies.