CW: references to homophobia, transphobia.
As we’re spending all our time at home and probably losing the will to scroll through Netflix for the 100th time that day, here are some of my favourite films to watch that centre queer voices and experiences.
Pride (2014) – Buy to Watch.
It really wouldn’t be an over exaggeration to say that I have watched this film at least fifty times since it was released. The ending always makes me SOB but in a life-affirming, look what can happen when we unite, life is too short not to make connections and find solidarity with your neighbours way.
Pride tells the real life story of a group of activists and friends who create Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) after London Pride 1984, after realising that the police violence and police targeting, as well as oppression from the Conservative Party, that the queer community normally faced was now being directly at the UK Miners too. Headed by Mark Ashton, LGSM sets up their headquarters at Gay’s The Word, an independent queer bookshop (that is still going today – support them here: https://www.gaystheword.co.uk/).
LGSM begins to fundraise for the miners through bucket collections and eventually they connect with the mining village Onllwyn in Wales. The film tells the story of the relationships between these two different communities and the last impacting it had on both the Miners’ Union and the queer community.
I won’t give any spoilers away but this film has heart-warming and beautiful moments throughout, such as the speech miner Dai Donovan gives at the ‘Pits and Perverts’ fundraiser, Imelda Stauton and Bill Nighy making sandwiches, and the end scenes at London Pride 1985.
The story of LGSM and Onllwyn’s comradeship is a testament to how we are all stronger when we are united against oppression (institutional or from a Conservative government) and support each other, even if as an individual you are not the person being oppressed.
Dating Amber (2020) – Amazon Prime.
Set in rural Kildare in the Republic of Ireland in 1995, Eddie is a closeted gay teen who starts a fake relationship with Amber, a closeted lesbian, so that they can both get through high school without being bullied or outed. Their friendship that is built through their fake relationship runs parallel to the two main characters coming to terms with their sexuality in a country and society that is distinctly homophobic and ignorant.
A favourite scene of mine is the montage of Amber and her first girlfriend slowly falling in love and Eddie finding comfort and solace in the arms of a drag queen singing in an LGBTQ+ club. Dating Amber a bit funny, a bit emotional, a bit heart-breaking at times and very Irish in a good way. It’s also a bit predictable but I can forgive this because it tells a coming of age queer story which isn’t full of violence, pain, and emotional manipulation, which sometimes is a welcome watch.
Moonlight (2016) – Buy to Watch.
This beautiful film follows one man, Chiron, through three stages of his life: childhood, teenagerhood, and adulthood, and explores his relationships with the people around him and his own relationship with his sexuality and identity. At each stage, Chiron has a different name that others call him: Little; Chiron; Black. In this way, the film plays out as a three-act play.
It’s based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue and became the first film with an all-black cast and first LGBTQ+-related film to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
The entire cast is incredible in their roles, especially Mahershala Ali as Juan and Ashton Sanders as teenage Chiron. This film stays with you a long time after the credits have rolled and is a portrayal of black, queer love and coming of age that is completely under-represented within film and television. Have tissues ready, because this film will make you cry.
Disclosure (2020) – Netflix.
If you watch one film from this list, make it Disclosure. This documentary is an in-depth look at Hollywood’s depiction of the trans community and trans individuals (both factual and fiction) in films, and the direct impact this has had on the trans community in America.
Many trans individuals working within the film and media sector – actors, writers, producers, reporters, models, musicians – are interviewed and share their own personal experience of being trans in America and the direct ways that Hollywood’s depiction of the trans community has affected them and the community.
The past few years we have seen a slight increase in trans characters played by trans actors, in authentic and often positive roles. However, those interviewed outline how and why there is still such a long way to go before the representation of the trans community is anywhere near equal or accurate. This documentary is necessary viewing this LGBTQ+ History month, to gain a comprehensive understanding of trans representations in the media and counter unconscious transphobic misconceptions or biases you may have because of the media and Hollywood.
A Secret Love (2020) – Netflix
This documentary is really, really lovely, to be honest, whilst also being a direct look into the older queer generation and the barriers they face/d. It follows Terry Donahue (a former baseball player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball Team) and Pat Henschel, who have been together for almost 70 years, but have only very recently told their families that they are in a relationship and not just roommates.
The film follows Terry and Pat over the past few years, focusing on their physical health worsening and the conversations they are having with each other and their families about moving into a retirement village and whether or not they are going to get married, now they legally can. Both Terry and Pat talk about how they felt coming out to their families and why they kept their relationship a secret for so many decades.
Safe to say, you’ll be crying by the end of the documentary at the love these two share and the life and family they’ve built together, despite having to keep their relationship secret and continuously facing oppression and prejudice. It’s a really beautiful documentary focused on two amazing women, and was produced by Ryan Murphy (whose produced quite a lot of America’s queer content – Pose, The Boys in the Band, Circus of Books all also available on Netflix).
Image courtesy of Jakob Owens.