No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon is available now from Frameline, while Elena Undone premiered last week courtesy of Wolfe Video.
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon are regarded as the founders of the modern lesbian rights movement, which the documentary reveals as both distinct from and unavoidably intertwined with the gay rights movement. The women were partners for nearly 60 years until Martin’s death in 2008.
They established the first social and political organization for lesbians in the United States, the Daughters of Bilitis, in San Francisco in 1955. The couple was also well known as co-authors of several books about lesbian life, as life-long political activists and as prominent speakers on LGBT topics.
No Secret Anymore (which was produced in 2003) serves as an intimate, inspirational look into Lyon’s and Martin’s relationship and historic achievements. The film was directed by Joan E. Biren (a.k.a. JEB) and is narrated by lesbian comic Kate Clinton. Archival and contemporary interviews with original members of the Daughters of Bilitis are incorporated and provide important insights.
Though Lyon is revealed as the funnier of the two, she and Martin are shown to have had a witty rapport that helped balance their deadly serious efforts on behalf of equality. They rarely held back in their criticism of oppressive institutions such as churches, and were also outspoken in their disapproval of what they considered to be gay men’s more frivolous attitudes toward society’s acceptance of gay and lesbian people. No Secret Anymore pointedly shows that it took the AIDS epidemic to shake many gay men out of their political complacency.
This certainly isn’t a movie just for lesbians. Gay men and students, both LGBT and straight, should also consider No Secret Anymore required viewing. An interesting companion piece is Elena Undone which, though fictional, has much to say about the current state of romantic relationships between women — and between women and men — from diverse backgrounds.
Written and directed by Nicole Conn, who previously made the lesbian favorite Claire of the Moon (also available on DVD), Elena Undone relates the burgeoning love story of a seemingly straight wife and mother, Elena, married to a fundamentalist Christian pastor and the single lesbian writer, Peyton, who unexpectedly rocks her world. The women mystically cross paths several times, culminating at a “Soulemetry” seminar (taught by an over-the-top Sam Harris) dedicated to helping people find their “ultimate love connection” or “your twin flame.”
The film employs the now familiar set-up of GLBT folks from opposite sides of the religious/conservative track who overcome their differences (Latter Days, Lianna, Desert Hearts, etc.) but largely plays it out in unpredictable ways, thankfully. The very attractive lead actresses, Necar Zadegan and Traci Dinwiddie, give better-than-average performances for the low-budget, indie genre, and Conn features them in several provocatively lengthy sex scenes that will no doubt set lesbian hearts (or other body parts) aflutter.
No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon: A-
Elena Undone: B
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.