On Jan. 25, 1992, the Sundance Film Festival convened a panel on contemporary lesbian and gay cinema and “the significance of this movement,” according to the program.
It was a bold declaration that drew nine speakers to a dais at noon, even though they were probably hung over from the big party the night before, where Brad Pitt showed up.
Sharing a name with an album by the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Barbed-Wire Kisses panel was a turning point for queer film. Not just because of the activist-driven, identity-cinema particulars it covered — there was talk of “having to rethink history according to our terms,” as the director Todd Haynes said during the discussion, and debate over protests regarding transgender representation in “The Silence of the Lambs.” What happened that day was a flash point in the genesis of New Queer Cinema, a call to arms of angry and unapologetic independent films that were made during the ’90s by, and arguably for, a community in crisis. “It was a supercharged moment,” said Tom Kalin, a filmmaker and one of the speakers. “The rest of the year bore out what happened on that panel.” “People hit pause to catch their breath,” said the film critic B.