PRIDE directed by Matthew Warchus (UK, 2014)
Although I was living in London in the 1980s, the time this movie was set, I confess to ignorance about the unlikely coalition between a small mining community in Wales and the left-leaning activists of the Lesbians And Gays Support The Miners (LGSM) operating from the Gay’s The Word bookshop in Bloomsbury.
I take comfort in the fact that Bill Nighy, one of the excellent ensemble cast of this movie, admits he didn’t know about this either until he was sent the script.
Perhaps this is not so strange given that the tabloids were only interested in shock-horror put-downs of “homos and “perverts” while the broadsheets seemed to have all but ignored the story.
Whilst the film is ‘based on a true story’, in the transition to the big screen a certain amount of air-brushing of the real life events has occurred. The most significant change is to skip over the fact that LGSM leader Mark Ashton (played by Ben Schnetzer) was a member of the Communist Party. Presumably this was done chiefly as a sop the US market so that Americans can enjoy watching the antics of these ‘quaint’ Brits without having their kneejerk ‘commie-hating’ tendencies inflamed.
The spectre of AIDs is not given much prominence either even though the epidemic claimed the life of Ashton, who died aged just 26. This is more justifiable since the filmmakers did not set out to make a film solely about gay lifestyles.
For the purposes of the story, it is enough to show that lesbians and gay men identified with the plight of the miners as another marginalised group at odds with the establishment; fellow victims of police brutality, state-sponsored hostility and media bias. In these terms, this is a very British story of the underdogs fighting the system in the name justice and fair play.
One major drawback of this is that it could give the impression that the defeat of the miner’s unions was a Pyrrhic victory for the Tory government. In reality, it is still heralded by many right-wing bigots as Thatcher’s finest hour. In this context, Billy Bragg singing ‘there is power in the union’ over the closing credits only makes you think of what might have been.
The movie does succeed, however, in showing that, in times of adversity, common causes work wonders for overcoming blind prejudices. The breakdown of the social and moral barriers between the tight-knit Welsh community and the LGSM group is both heartwarming and humourous, making what scriptwriter, Stephen Beresford, succinctly sums up as “an uplifting story about a terrible defeat” .