Polari’, a short documentary on the lost language of gay men, has been released online. The film is available on Vero, YouTube and Vimeo.
‘Polari’ documents the colourful history and sad necessities behind a forgotten language that was used by Britain’s gay community up until the 1960s.
“Bona to varda your dolly old eke!” – Polari for “Good to see your lovely old face again”
The documentary is framed around the experiences of four men for whom Polari has had varying degrees of impact on their lives and language; Dr. Paul Baker, an English language professor whose PhD on Polari saved the cryptolect from extinction, David Raven (aka Maisie Trollette), Britain’s oldest working drag artist who encountered Polari in the drag clubs of the 50s, Peter Scott-Presland, a writer and performer who learnt Polari through his friends and used it in his work, and Karl Eccleston, a filmmaker who (with Brian Fairbairn) co-wrote and co-directed a short film delivered entirely in Polari.
“What I discovered was a rich etymology that extends back to Elizabethan times and incorporates the archaic languages of thieves, travellers, entertainers, sailors, Jews, transvestites, drag queens and cockneys, to name but a few.” – Chris Brake, Director
The documentary also examines how elements of Polari have endured into modern times, and how it still retains the capacity to cause extreme controversy. The delivery of a Polari Church Evensong at Westcott House, Cambridge during filming drew mixed reactions on social media ranging from laughter to outrage. Upon approaching representatives of the Church to talk about their reaction to the story, the majority refused to talk to the filmmakers about this “hot potato issue”, with some citing orders from their diocese not to talk to the media about Polari, highlighting the discomfort this language can still exert.
Director Chris Brake is a final year student at the London Film School. Prior to moving in to film his debut play ‘The War Room’ won first place at the Southern Counties One Act Festival, and went on to the semi-finals of the All-England Theatre Festival. Most recently he directed the short film ‘Scraps’, a puppet film about a boy made of trash. His first short film ‘Nest’ was a semi-finalist at the Berlin Student Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Juror’s Award.