As we celebrate LGBT+ History Month, we’re recognising the contributions of leading LGBT+ figures to the media and technology industries. We’re spotlighting four trailblazers: David France, Barbara Hammer, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, and Martine Rothblatt. Each of these individuals has made significant contributions to the development and advancement of their respective fields, and their stories inspire us all.
David France’s documentary ‘Welcome to Chechnya’ tells the story of the fear, persecution, and violence that Chechnya’s LGBT+ community has been facing. The investigative reporter introduced deepfake technology to change the faces of the LGBT+ figures he featured in his film in post-production to protect their identities.
LGBT+ activists from New York City were filmed in a studio using a nine-camera array to deliver a 360-degree view of their faces. These images were then edited using deep-learning technology and integrated with the footage from Chechnyan LGBT+ individuals.
David France has demonstrated that even a controversial technology (Facebook has pledged to ban deepfake images on its platform) can be used to create positive social impact and become a powerful storytelling tool.
Barbara Hammer was an American director, producer, writer, and cinematographer who is considered a pioneer of queer cinema. She used experimental cinema to expose her audiences to feminist theory. Born in Hollywood in 1939, Barbara Hammer was known for working with experimental 16mm film to show the fragility of the film itself. She created what is widely considered to be one of the first lesbian films, Dyketactics (1974), followed by her first feature film Nitrate Kisses (1992), an award-winning documentary about the marginalisation of lesbian and gay people in the 20th century.
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett
Sir Rodney Richard Bennett was a prolific composer who produced some of the most iconic film scores in film and TV, including Doctor Who, Murder on the Orient Express, Far from the Madding Crowd, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. His use of surrealism in composition, picked up while studying under the French avant-garde composer Pierre Boulez, set the stage for modern-day composers such as Hans Zimmer, who used elements of surrealism in his scores for The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar.
Martine Rothblatt is a pioneer in satellite communications. As the founder of Sirius Satellite Radio, the first non-geostationary satellite-to-car broadcasting system, Rothblatt revolutionised how people listen to music and other forms of media by introducing satellite radio to the mainstream. Rothblatt has also developed other satellite-based technologies that have transformed how we communicate, navigate, and access information.
Aside from her professional achievements, Rothblatt is also a transgender woman who has been a vocal advocate for transgender rights and inclusion in the workplace. She has used her platform to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the transgender community and has worked to promote a more inclusive society.
These individuals have left an impact on how we communicate and will continue to be celebrated by the worlds of arts, culture, media, and entertainment for many years to come. Through their compelling storytelling and innovative techniques, they highlighted how important an inclusive and equitable society is for all.