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British Film Institute unearths ‘first’ gay drama

British Film Institute unearths ‘first’ gay drama

Possibly the first ever gay drama has been unearthed by the British Film Institute and will be screened on 23 and 24 March.

Airing at the BFI’s 27th lesbian and gay film festival, the 1959 ITV play ‘South’ follows an exiled Polish lieutenant facing up to his demons just before the American Civil War.

Unearthed for the BFI by researcher Peter Scott-Presland, curator Simon McCallum says the drama ‘is a milestone’ in cultural history.

Speaking to The Guardian, he said: ‘The play is about north versus south, black versus white, straight versus gay.’

He also praised actor Peter Wyngarde for his courageous performance.

‘I think you have to give Wyngarde a massive pat on the back in terms of the bravery in taking this role. There were quite bad reactions from some of the press,’ McCallum added.

Back in 1957 the Wolfenden Report recommended homosexual behavior between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence but being gay was still widely unapproved.

The report inspired ‘South’, which was well before its time, and received many negative reviews.

A reporter for the Daily Sketch wrote: ‘There are some indecencies in life that are best left covered up.’

Director Mario Prizek, who was openly gay, rallied for equal rights throughout his whole career until he died in 2012, working with British stars including Dame Maggie Smith.

As the film is only known to a select few, the BFI are hoping it will reach a new generation.

‘South’ can be seen for free at BFI cinemas in Glasgow, Newcastle, Wrexham, Cambridge, Derby and London.