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Documentary shines light on homophobia in black barbershops

EYE-OPENING: Filmmaker Derek L Middleton

AN AMERICAN filmmaker is shedding light on homophobia in the black barbershop with a candid documentary.

Young creative Derek L Middleton's new film, Shape Up: Gay in the Black Barbershop, examines how black men are treated at the barbers.

Consisting of a number of informal interviews and first hand accounts, the work explores homophobic attitudes within this informally dubbed ‘sacred place’. It’s argued that these attitudes are manifested through casual jokes, slurs or enforcement of hyper-masculine ideals. The crux of the examination focuses on the discomfort that such environments cause black gay men who visit for their haircut.

Shape Up is further inspired by Middleton’s personal experiences of discrimination because of his own sexuality in the past. Expanding on the underlying ethos behind Shape Up’, the filmmaker asserts a resounding need for transparency surrounding the matter,

“It is time for dialogue - a conversation of the minds to bring an end to what many gay men of colour like me experience daily when we want to simply get into the shop and get out," he said.

The documentary was premiered on July 20 at the White House in Washington, DC and won the Best Emerging Documentary award from the March on Washington Film Festival.

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