Review: Rebel Dykes

Directed by Harri Shanahan and Siân A. Williams, exploring the explosion that happened when punk met feminism, told through the lives of a gang of lesbians in the riotous London of the 1980s.

This film truly feels like it’s tapping into a story that’s been mostly ignored but one that played a significant part in progress for the lesbian community in the UK. It creates a fantastic atmosphere that both holds sincerity for the cultural movement its focused on but also instilling the rebel, fervent and unrelenting energy of its women. Its sole focus is not fighting against homophobia, it has a more political vein to it, both the conflicting politics within the community, as well as coming together to fight issues of war and freedom.

One of the most interesting elements is its exploration of how the community found itself split into factions, with one side fighting for sexual freedoms and the other holding a very specific view of how lesbians should be represented or how they should act. It walks down this brilliant path of showing how this group embraced S&M in a show of sex positivity, it may not be for everyone but that doesn’t give anyone the right to dictate what their relationship with sex should be. It’s very honest and open about the subject, hearing these women discuss it years down the line, you can feel the significance that it had to have a place where they could let go and experiment.

They may have all been drawn together by looking for like-minded women but they’re all very different, individual personalities, yet they still have one clear thing in common, passion. Their determination to stop others from telling them who they should be or how they should act is inspiring but it also doesn’t become overly serious. The whole atmosphere is both informational and conversational, it’s part of a larger look into how progress is achieved but it’s also a very personal story about their lives. It has a strong vein of nostalgia, it pays tribute to the efforts of the time but with such personal accounts, it views the events through an extra lens of fond memories. The balance that creates is quite fascinating and though at times it feels like it could have gone further or moved around from each topic more smoothly, it never undermines that.

Rebel Dykes is a fascinating look into an underexplored moment in queer history. It manages to create both an inspiring, energetic, riotous side and a nostalgic, personal perspective. It’s full of women with passion and strong personalities that are hugely enjoyable to watch. The style has a vibrancy to it that encapsulates the era it explores. It holds a great mix of being both informative, emotional and fun.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯

Reviewed as part of BFI Flare – Showing from 17th to 28th March

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