Channel 4 uses gays to court yet more controversy

Ben Leung February 15, 2007
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Channel 4 will mark the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality this summer with a series of films and documentaries.

Clapham Junction, a film by Kevin Elyot, is expected to generate more headlines for the channel.

It charts the lives of seven gay men over a 36-hour period as they visit Clapham Common in search of sex.

Channel 4 has spend the start of 2007 fending off accusations of condoning racism on Celebrity Big Brother

They are already predicting that Elyot’s film is likely to generate more controversy for its explicit portrayals of gay sex and, more importantly, homophobic attacks on the common.

The Common, a notorious cruising ground, is famous for former Wales secretary Ron Davies’s “moment of madness” incident in 1998.

Channel 4 will show the film in August as part of a short season to mark the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967, which legalised male homosexual acts in private between two people aged 21 or over.

Then-home secretary Roy Jenkins famously remarked at the time:

“Those who suffer from this disability carry a great weight of shame all their lives.”

Elyot’s original concept stemmed from the homophobic murder of Jody Dobrowski on the Common in 2005.

The 24-year-old barman was punched and kicked to death by two men in an attack so brutal that his family was unable to identify him.

The channel is expecting controversy over their explicit Clapham Common piece, and the PR offensive has already begun.

Elyot argues that it is essential to portray the lesser-known side of gay lifestyle in 21st century London in a gritty and realistic way.

The director, best known as the author of the Olivier award-winning 1995 play My Night with Reg said:

“Though homosexuality would seem to be more accepted and legitimised through civil partnerships, there still seems to be a disturbing amount of homophobic violence and homophobic attitudes sometimes coming from surprising quarters.

“Liberal legislation doesn’t necessarily bring about genuine tolerance.”

A series of documentaries is also scheduled, including a dramatic reconstruction of a man being tried in the 1960’s for his sexuality.

Liza Marshall, commissioning editor for drama at the station, appeared to misunderstand the nature of the channel’s previous groundbreaking gay drama:

“This film will not be fluffy like Queer as Folk because times appear to have changed and gay politics has moved on,” she said.

“The rise in homosexual violence is on record and this is Kevin’s attempt to address that, his take on what it is like to be gay in London today, which is in many ways very disturbing.

“There has been a real rise in gay bashing but this is also accompanied by civil partnerships and a widespread public acceptance of them – we wanted to explore this conflict.”

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