A closeted school teacher walks a tightrope between her job and her love life in 1980s England in lesbian drama film Blue Jean, screening for the first time in Queensland at the New Farm Queer Film Festival this month.
Jean (Rosy McEwen, above) leads a double life: she teaches PE by day and at night returns to her secret girlfriend, Viv.
Margaret Thatcher then passes the homophobic Section 28 law. The notorious legislation prohibited the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools.
As a result, the already reticent Jean retreats further into secrecy. Despite close friendships with louder, prouder lesbian women, being outed at work could cost Jean her job.
Every sideways glance, whisper, and query about Jean’s personal life is a threat.
But 15-year-old student Lois, herself bullied for being gay, spots Jean at a lesbian bar. The closeted teacher must go to extreme lengths to keep her job and her integrity.
Blue Jean is a ‘story that hadn’t been told’
Blue Jean is the directorial debut of Georgia Oakley. She said the film explores the long-term impacts of the homophobic Section 28 on both students and teachers.
“I started unravelling the effects [the law] must have had on me as a teenager without me really knowing about it,” she told MovieWeb.
“When I got into that mindset, I stumbled across some interviews with women who had lived that experience as P.E. teachers in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
“We went on to meet them, and they became a huge part of the development of the film.
“I knew, having met them, there was this story that hadn’t been told. They were so passionately wanting it to be told. I felt a responsibility to give that to them.”
Georgia Oakley said even though Blue Jean is a “very specifically British” film, audiences at screenings around the world identified with Jean.
“Almost every time we screen the film, somebody puts their hand up at the end and says, ‘I was Jean’ or ‘I was Lois,'” she explained.
“Even if that particular law didn’t exist in their country, attitudes were similar.
“Jean’s experience is something that quite a lot of people could relate to, particularly as queer women who live through that time.”
Blue Jean is screening at New Farm Queer Film Festival
Blue Jean will screen for the first time in Queensland at the New Farm Queer Film Festival from Friday, September 22.
Now in its second year, the festival runs for twelve days until October 2 at the cinemas.
Also on the lineup are five Australian premieres, seven Queensland premieres as well as restored queer classics and special guests.
Other films on the lineup include Ben Whishaw drama Passages on opening night and John Waters classic Pink Flamingos.
Australian releases on the lineup include comedy film The Winner Takes It All and coming-of-age series Single, Out.
Tickets to Blue Jean and all films at the 2023 New Farm Queer Film Festival at New Farm Cinemas are on sale now.
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