“You leave in the morning with everything you own in a little black case…” – Smalltown Boy, by Bronski Beat
“Small Town, Turn Away” is a personal documentary film project about a few seconds in a pop song that crystallized into the primal scream of the gay community.
Those seconds of the word “Cry,” sung in a piercing falsetto, haunted LGBT youth in small towns across continents who listened to Smalltown Boy, by the 1980s British synthpop band Bronski Beat. Thirty years after its 1984 release, vocalist Jimmy Sommerville’s song remains iconic, illustrating the archetypal journey of queer escape into the big city.
Between 2015 and 2017, American filmmaker Dolissa Medina will be traveling to London, New York, and San Francisco to collect oral histories of how the song “Smalltown Boy” has impacted generations of gay men. All stories are welcome, but the ideal interview subject is a gay man in his 50s who moved from a small town to one of these urban centers during the 1980s, and who still lives in his adopted city today.
The Little Black Case
Medina’s self-funded research and development trips mark Phase One of her project, titled “The Little Black Case.” Inspired by Smalltown Boy’s lyrics, Medina will travel to London, New York, and San Francisco with a Zoom microphone packed in a little black case, recording oral histories of the AIDS generation. The audio interviews will eventually be added to an online archive, as well as assist in the development of a script for the one-hour documentary essay film.
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“Small Town, Turn Away” has been designated by the Creative Capital Foundation as one of its “On Our Radar” projects for 2015.
Photo credit: Leonardo Bighetti, Creative Commons License.
Record collage by Dolissa Medina.