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Nitrate Kisses Director: Barbara Hammer
Premiere: Sundance Film Festival 1993, Documentary Competition

From the 1993 Sundance Film Festival Catalog

For many years filmmaker Barbara Hammer has been creating provocative, often experimental, imagery. In this, her first feature documentary, she has assembled an intense and exceptionally vital collage which relates a history which has heretofore been repressed or distorted.

In 1990, while researching at the George Eastman Archive in Rochester, Hammer discovered what may have been one of the earliest gay films, Lot In Sodom. Utilizing outtakes and clips, interwoven with an assortment of other materials, including footage from German-narrative feature films of the thirties, interviews, period music and shots of three separate couples making love, she offers a different set of images about lesbian and gay life than those which have previously emerged. In so doing, she not only challenges the dominant ideology of the heterosexual society, but confronts powerfully and graphically our images of sexual and erotic love.

This is not a liberal film attempting to assimilate its eroticism into a safe and accepted world. It is in fact subversive and adamant in its efforts to force us to see what we've managed to avoid for so many years. Hammer is not, however, just an ideologue. Her artistry is striking: sometimes formal, but more often associative and constructive. Nitrate Kisses is a representation which operates on many levels, including allegorical, historical and erotic. The filmmaker also sees it as an invitation to elicit personal history. It is without question a statement about sexual mores which will remain impressed on all who view it.

Why She Matters

Lesbian avant-garde filmmaker Barbara Hammer is a pioneer in queer cinema known for her experimental approach to film form and structure. Hammer earned notoriety for her art, short works, and feature films that explored taboo subjects such as menstruation, sexuality and the female orgasm. Hammer went on to make more than ten documentary features, two of which--Tender Fictions, and History Lessons--premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996 and 2001 respectively.

“Barbara Hammer is something of a legend in queer feminist and experimental filmmaking circles. In the seventies, she was the first lesbian feminist to make open, celebratory films about her sexuality. In the eighties, her films took their inspiration from structuralism, using paint, animation, and optical printing to explore notions of embodied spectatorship. By the nineties, she’d helped to pioneer ‘essay films,’ an attempt to produce ‘a genealogy of survival’ amid the thrust of identity politics. Her work foregrounded important queer figures in history—Willa Cather, Alice Austen, and Hannah Höch among them—and their historical erasure.”

—Jane Harris, The Paris Review, 2015

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