Happy Pride month! We believe that queer stories should be rightfully embraced and celebrated, now, more than ever. For this very reason, we curated a list of LGBT+ films for everyone to enjoy.
The diverse list of films exhibits several different realities, from different nations, intersections of identities, and representations of what it means to be queer in particular places and times since queerness is experienced and treated in a myriad of different ways depending on the context. Our selection ranges from mainstream features to documentaries and international lower-budget films, all of which are still relevant to us today.
The thread that ties these films to one another is that they illustrate meaningful and powerful stories through beautiful cinematography with the overarching purpose of inspiring hope in queer audiences. Not only can this film motivate us, thrill us, and fill us with emotion, but also enrich us and help us move forward as a community.
Tells the lesbian love story of Kena and Ziki in Nairobi during a political campaign in which their parents are opposing each other. Both in the film and in real life, Kenya forbids same-sex relationships by law. This poses a threat for the protagonists for they cannot love each other without constraints, being relegated to have to choose between their truth and their safety. Rafiki became the first-ever Kenyan film to be screened at Cannes Festival and was only able to be screened in its home country after a Supreme Court defeat of the government-imposed ban on queer content.
Summer of 85 (Été 85, 2020)
In the summer of 1985, Alex and David meet at sea when the latter saves the former from drowning after a storm made Alex’s sail capsize. The drama, directed by Francois Ozon and filmed in 16mm for increased verisimilitude with the year in which the film is set, merges the thriller genre with queer romance; with the yearning involved in wanting someone to be forever close to you and the intensity of the first true love. Since, as revealed by the intense fast-paced trailer, there is a trial involved and enigmatic suspense surrounding the protagonists, which makes this film stand out genre-wise.
A powerful biographical documentary that celebrates the life of Lemebel, a queer activist, writer, and performance artist, winning the Teddy Award for Best Documentary in Berlinale 2019. Back in his day, Lemebel transgressed many rules in Chilean society –which during that time was under the far-right conservative dictatorship of Pinochet, where homosexual people were killed and tortured in the streets– not only by contradicting preconceived notions of sexuality but also by criticizing the institutions of patriarchy and capitalism by analyzing the intersections of queerness and poverty in Chile. Through extravagant outfits, clever reflections, and extreme performances, he made several political statements that still ripple to this day in Chilean culture. It is also a magnificent introduction to intersectionality through a queer Latino lens.
Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen (2020)
From: the U.S.
This documentary explains and exhibits how our contemporary perception of trans people has not been shaped through the lens, words, or bodies of actual trans people. Thus they haven’t gotten a chance to actually see themselves represented on screen and the representations they have seen, have been mostly mockeries or problematic ones. There’s still a very long way to go for trans people to achieve authentically diverse and inclusive representation, but Disclosure is a step in the right direction. The film allows trans people to discuss what has happened, why we need to change things, and how to do so.
The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho, 2014)
A tender coming-of-age romance based on a short film of the same name. The feature follows Leonardo, a blind gay teenager who begins discovering himself and his sexual orientation after meeting a new student at his school, the nonchalant and gentle Gabriel. The film not only explores queerness but also navigates the difficulties in Leonardo’s life as a blind teen. Besides a loyal and noble friendship, Gabriel will mean much more to Leonardo than he anticipated.
The Half of It (2020)
From: the U.S.
A queer twist on Cyrano de Bergerac, where highly intelligent high-school student Ellie Chu is hired by Paul, a jock unskilled with words, to write love letters to the most popular girl in their school, Aster Flores. When Paul and Ellie turn out to be both in love with Aster, conflict arises and tender relationships flourish.
The Handmaiden (아가씨, 2016)
From: South Korea
Set in Korea during the Japanese occupation, The Handmaiden is a revenge thriller and lesbian romance that follows a young girl, Sook-Hee, who is hired as a handmaiden for Lady Hideko. Hideko lives in her authoritarian uncle’s mansion, and together with Sook-Hee, she elaborates a plan towards liberation.
Paris is Burning (1990)
From: the U.S.
This documentary is an energetic expedition into New York’s drag scene in the 80s, exploring the origins of voguing, ballrooms, houses and their mothers, and the trailblazing experiences of Hispanic/Latino and African-American drag queens and queer people during that time. It is always important to look back to our roots and give our admiration and gratitude to those who have walked so we could run.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu, 2019)
Set in the 18th century, the critically-acclaimed film tells the story of Marianne, an artist who has to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse without the latter knowing. As Marianne fulfills her duty, the fire of their shared passion burns stronger and higher.
Boys (Jongens, 2014)
From: The Netherlands
A personal favorite film depicting the sweet and playful relationship born between two teenaged athletes who meet on the racetrack, the shy protagonist Sieger and the spontaneous Marc. Through Sieger’s perspective, the film expresses the longing for love felt by queer youth. It is a beautiful story about innocence and softness involved in the self-discovery of queer individuals, and also an honest portrayal of the internal conflicts commonly experienced.
A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantástica, 2017)
The Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film follows a trans woman as she confronts negligence and bigotry from her partner’s family after he faces an untimely death. Portrayed by a Chilean trans woman, Daniela Vega, the film signifies a huge –and long-needed– step forward for the community in terms of trans visibility.
Memories of a Teenager (Yo, Adolescente, 2019)
More than once we have seen film protagonists blog their entire lives and narrate their stories through voice-overs. This time, is Zabo’s turn, a candid and eager bisexual teenager who is dealing with the suicide of his best friend and is yet unaware of his own sexuality. This Argentinian drama shows how messy and rocky the path to self-acceptance can be, and sometimes even frustrating and incomprehensible. Memories of a Teenager does not shy away from the topics of depression and suicide, which are heartbreakingly very prominent in queer youth; while it also touches upon the complexities of same-sex attraction and bisexuality.
The film explores the homophobia and heteronormativity in the conservative rural communities of Peru’s highlands. The plot follows Segundo, a 14-year-old teen whose father teaches him to master the craft of “retablos”, a Peruvian painstaking art that usually represents biblical scenes or everyday events. As Segundo discovers his father is secretly queer, the film reflects the harsh and appalling scenarios that queer people go through in conservative regions, as well as the complex reactions of loved ones to said queerness. Retablo has won several awards throughout South and North America, in addition to the Newcomer Teddy Award at Berlinale 2018.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
From: the U.S.
A documentary investigating the suspicious death of Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman who was a famous gay rights activist last century. Marsha made strides at the forefront of the fight for queer liberation and thus is one of the people who forged the path for the community, whose life was taken unfairly soon.