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Marlon Riggs



From 1987 until shortly before his death in 1994, Marlon Riggs was Professor of Documentary Film-making in the Graduate School of Journalism. A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University, Riggs earned his M.A. degree in journalism from Berkeley in 1981. His documentary film Ethnic Notions (1987) garnered high praise when it was shown on public television, but his next work Tongues Untied (1988) catapulted him into the national spotlight. The documentary, an exploration of gay black urban life, featured frank language and graphic sexual images. It had been funded in part by a grant of $5000 from the National Endowment for the Arts. When the film was broadcast on the P.O.V. (Point of View) public television series, conservative members of Congress were outraged and called for the abolition of the N.E.A. and drastic cuts in funding for public television in general. Tongues Untied was followed by Color Adjustment (1989) and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (1992). Riggs was at work on Black Is...Black Ain’t when he died of AIDS in 1994. The film was completed by his co-producer Nicole Atkinson and his editor/co-director Christiane Badgely. In his brief career Riggs was awarded two Emmys, the Peabody Award, the award for Best Video at the New York Documentary Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Berlin International Film Festival. Seldom has a Berkeley professor been the subject of both Congressional censure and international acclaim.

Read More About It

  • “Marlon Riggs: a Bibliography of Materials in the UC Berkeley Library”
  • Marlon Riggs, “Tongues Re-tied?” in Currents, August 1991
  • Marlon Riggs, “Black Macho Revisited: Reflections of a Snap! Queen,” in Black American Literature Forum, Summer 1991
  • Philip Brian Harper, “Marlon Riggs: the Subjective Position of Documentary Video,” in Art Journal (New York), Winter 1995.

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