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Strange bedfellows?

‘80s-set Brit film finds gays joining forces with miners

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Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

Dominic West as Jonathan in ‘Pride.’ (Photo by Nicola Dave; courtesy CBS Films)

“Pride” is a thoroughly engaging movie that manages to be political without being preachy and deeply moving without being overly sentimental.

Briskly directed by Mathew Warchus from a script by Stephen Beresford, the movie features fine performances, sharp dialogue and a lively pace. It opens today at several theaters in the D.C. region.

Based on historical events, the movie opens during the London Pride March in 1984. As a trick leaves his apartment, young gay rights activist Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) catches television coverage of the strike by the National Union of Mineworkers. He quickly senses that there is common cause between the gay rights movement and the miners. Both are demonized by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and conservative politicians, hated by the tabloid press and beaten by police.

Mark quickly rallies his friends into raising money for the miners. They call themselves LGSM: “Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners.” They are surprisingly effective fundraisers, but run into a problem. None of the striking unions want to take their money. The resourceful Mark decides to take the money directly to a struggling mining community. Disco, comedy and calamity ensue.

Warchus and Beresford tell this inspirational story with remarkable efficiency and effectiveness, which is both a strength and a weakness. An acclaimed stage director, Warchus handles the large ensemble cast with remarkable grace. The performances are uniformly strong, but while the characters may be based on real people, the script often draws on generic story lines instead of specific details, especially for the minor characters. For example, there’s the spiky lesbian Steph (a vibrant Faye Marsay), the newbie Joe whose parents discover his cache of photos (the effervescent George MacKay) and the elderly Gwen (a charming Menna Trussler) who wonders if all lesbians are vegetarians and keeps shouting “Where are my lesbians?”

Schnetzer and Paddy Considine as Dai turn in interesting performances as two very different organizers. The younger gay rights organizer masks his inner demons with bravado where the older labor leader radiates a quiet confidence. Imelda Staunton (best known as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter movies) leaps zestfully into the role of Hefina, the leader of the strike committee; she cuts a rug and cuts down narrow-minded villagers with the same fiery passion. Bill Nighy gives a powerfully understated performance as Cliff, the tongue-tied local historian who waxes poetic when he talks about local history or national politics.

With unwavering support from composer Christoper Nightingale and cinematographer Tat Radcliffe, Warchus also creates a beautiful movie. The boisterous urban scenery of gay London and the bleak streets of Onllwyn are captured with the same delicacy and eye for detail as the rolling landscapes of Wales. The rich score draws on a variety of pop and folk sources, most notably Pete Seger’s “Solidarity Forever” and the labor anthem “Bread and Roses,” beautifully sung by Bronwen Lewis (a finalist on “The Voice”).

“Pride” is a well-told tale about a historic alliance between LGBT activists and labor leaders that also serves as a striking parable for our times.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Night of Champions

Team DC holds annual awards gala

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Team DC President Miguel Ayala speaks at the 2024 Night of Champions Awards on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Team DC, the umbrella organization for LGBTQ-friendly sports teams and leagues in the D.C. area, held its annual Night of Champions Awards Gala on Saturday, April 20 at the Hilton National Mall. The organization gave out scholarships to area LGBTQ student athletes as well as awards to the Different Drummers, Kelly Laczko of Duplex Diner, Stacy Smith of the Edmund Burke School, Bryan Frank of Triout, JC Adams of DCG Basketball and the DC Gay Flag Football League.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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PHOTOS: National Cannabis Festival

Annual event draws thousands to RFK

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Growers show their strains at The National Cannabis Festival on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 2024 National Cannabis Festival was held at the Fields at RFK Stadium on April 19-20.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

‘Amm(i)gone’ explores family, queerness, and faith

A ‘fully autobiographical’ work from out artist Adil Mansoor

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Adil Mansoor in ‘Amm(i)gone’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. (Photo by Kitoko Chargois)

‘Amm(i)gone’
Thorough May 12
Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D St., N.W. 
$60-$70
Woollymammoth.net

“Fully and utterly autobiographical.” That’s how Adil Mansoor describes “Amm(i)gone,” his one-man work currently playing at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. 

Both created and performed by out artist Mansoor, it’s his story about inviting his Pakistani mother to translate Sophocles’s Greek tragedy “Antigone” into Urdu. Throughout the journey, there’s an exploration of family, queerness, and faith,as well as references to teachings from the Quran, and audio conversations with his Muslim mother. 

Mansoor, 38, grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and is now based in Pittsburgh where he’s a busy theater maker. He’s also the founding member of Pittsburgh’s Hatch Arts Collective and the former artistic director of Dreams of Hope, an LGBTQ youth arts organization.

WASHINGTON BLADE: What spurred you to create “Amm(i)gone”? 

ADIL MANSOOR: I was reading a translation of “Antigone” a few years back and found myself emotionally overwhelmed. A Theban princess buries her brother knowing it will cost her, her own life. It’s about a person for whom all aspirations are in the afterlife. And what does that do to the living when all of your hopes and dreams have to be reserved for the afterlife?

I found grant funding to pay my mom to do the translation. I wanted to engage in learning. I wanted to share theater but especially this ancient tragedy. My mother appreciated the characters were struggling between loving one another and their beliefs. 

BLADE: Are you more director than actor?

MANSOOR: I’m primarily a director with an MFA in directing from Carnegie Mellon. I wrote, directed, and performed in this show, and had been working on it for four years. I’ve done different versions including Zoom. Woolly’s is a new production with the same team who’ve been involved since the beginning. 

I love solo performance. I’ve produced and now teach solo performance and believe in its power. And I definitely lean toward “performance” and I haven’t “acted” since I was in college. I feel good on stage. I was a tour guide and do a lot of public speaking. I enjoy the attention. 

BLADE: Describe your mom. 

MANSOOR: My mom is a wonderfully devout Muslim, single mother, social worker who discovered my queerness on Google. And she prays for me. 

She and I are similar, the way we look at things, the way we laugh. But different too. And those are among the questions I ask in this show. Our relationship is both beautiful and complicated.

BLADE: So, you weren’t exactly hiding your sexuality? 

MANSOOR: In my mid-20s, I took time to talk with friends about our being queer with relation to our careers. My sexuality is essential to the work. As the artistic director at Dreams of Hope, part of the work was to model what it means to be public. If I’m in a room with queer and trans teenagers, part of what I’m doing is modeling queer adulthood. The way they see me in the world is part of what I’m putting out there. And I want that to be expansive and full. 

So much of my work involves fundraising and being a face in schools. Being out is about making safe space for queer young folks.

BLADE: Have you encountered much Islamophobia? 

MANSOOR: When 9/11 happened, I was a sophomore in high school, so yes. I faced a lot then and now. I’ve been egged on the street in the last four months. I see it in the classroom. It shows up in all sorts of ways. 

BLADE: What prompted you to lead your creative life in Pittsburgh? 

MANSOOR: I’ve been here for 14 years. I breathe with ease in Pittsburgh. The hills and the valleys and the rust of the city do something to me. It’s beautiful, it’ affordable, and there is support for local artists. There’s a lot of opportunity. 

Still, the plan was to move to New York in September of 2020 but that was cancelled. Then the pandemic showed me that I could live in Pittsburgh and still have a nationally viable career. 

BLADE: What are you trying to achieve with “Amm(i)gone”? 

MANSOOR: What I’m sharing in the show is so very specific but I hear people from other backgrounds say I totally see my mom in that. My partner is Catholic and we share so much in relation to this. 

 I hope the work is embracing the fullness of queerness and how means so many things. And I hope the show makes audiences want to call their parents or squeeze their partners.

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