We are quite excited for the impending U.S. release of BPM:Beats Per Minute (original French language title: 120 Battements Par Minute), an award-winning 2017 Cannes standout about ACT UP’s fight for AIDS action and awareness in Paris in the 1990s. However, we couldn’t help but notice a glaring disparity between the original unit publicity photo and the American and French posters: the posters remove the ACT UP verbiage – “SILENCE=MORT (DEATH)” from the T-shirt of the featured actor. Considering the ACT UP message is such an integral component of the queer rights movement — and this movie — this is both puzzling and alarming.
Could this be an example of “straightwashing?” Did the film’s marketing team feel that the complete ACT UP slogan would be too incendiary and that it might turn off mainstream audiences, homophobes and apolitical gays from seeing the film? Or was this just a boneheaded graphic design move that cut out a major selling point for students of queer history? We can hear that argument now: “We had to remove it because it interfered with the billing block.” Baloney. There’s plenty of room for the billing block and laurels to be moved down without messing up the overall layout of the poster.
From what we know, this movie derives much of its power from its political messaging and its fully-realized activist characters. Why dilute that and misrepresent the intention of this particular piece of art?