By Jess Brown
As we're getting to the end of LGBT+ History Month, and the theme of this year is Peace, Activism and Reconcilliation. For this to be achieved however, it will take not just the queer community but everyone in society for many generations to come. Some people may think if they’re straight they don’t really have to learn about the history but that’s not true, it’s important to stay as culturally sensitive and aware as possible. What better way to do that and have insight then through cinema! I was asked to do a few light, fun articles around this but the thing about mainstream LGBT+ cinema is that it’s fairly tragic and dark in the storytelling due to the struggles faced by us in the community. With that said here’s six of my favourite films with LGBT+ representation.
The Handmaiden (2016)
One of the best films I’ve ever seen, The Handmaiden is a beautifully told, written, acted and directed period piece/ erotic psychological thriller is set in the early 1900s Korea under Japanese colonial rule. It focuses on the blossoming love between a handmaiden and the Lady she serves. To say anything more about it would be detrimental as its better seen than explained due to its twisty narrative. Park Chan-wook is a master director and you should check out his other work too. Korean cinema is amazing!
A tragic and poignant tale that clicks well with this years themes. To sum the film up would be an injustice to its deep messages and heart but essentially it is set over three defining periods of a young African-American man's life, chronicling his struggles with homosexuality and himself. It’s a beautifully film all round and definitely worth watching to give perspective on a part of the world that’s not often looked at.
The Favourite (2019)
I recently watched this dark comedy at the cinema and loved it. The real life historical figures and their relationships it’s based on has been disputed by historians for years but it’s acting, writing and direction is all outstanding. It also features an amazing performance (now Oscar winning!) by the one and only Olivia Colman. Prepare to be disturbed and moved at the same time.
What Keeps You Alive (2018)
A horror film that does what more films in every genre should be doing and has its main characters sexuality not be the focus or conflict of the film. They just happen to be a lesbian couple, granted one of them wants to murder the other but… it’s still a good way of just accepting that lesbians and gay people exist. It’s a dark and brutal film but one that is a fine example of how to treat queer characters.
The Imitation Game (2014)
This got a lot of flak for how it handled Alan Turing’s sexuality. Many said it downplayed it and I believe it did a bit too however, what it doesn’t downplay is the tragedy that was inflicted upon the guy who effectively saved the world in WWII and is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Alan Turing was chemically castrated by the British Government due to the laws back in the 40s and 50s. Although it came too late after his suicide, he has since been recognized and this film (regardless of how it is played) brought his achievements and the tragedy of his life back into the limelight of his home country. Many people now know his name and not only that, the film brought about a cause led by Stephen Fry that resulted in the ‘Alan Turing Law’ which pardons those homosexual men who fell victim to the government back then due to their sexuality.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Timothée “Indie cute boy with incredible hair *ahem*” Chalamet and Arnie Hammer lead this gorgeous film set in 1980s rural Italy (which is as lush as it sounds) about discovering and embracing queer identity. It’s quite a simple story and doesn’t touch on anything too heavy which is why I thought I’d save it for last. It’s nice to look at, has an emotionally complex story and its just overall amazing. Check it.
It’s interesting how most of these films have dark subject matter or undertones but the thing is that’s unfortunately still the state of the world today in most places. Most LGBT+ films do focus on the struggle being in that community and that’s more than okay because it shines spotlights on the truth. It is getting more accepted though, through people taking time to learn and respect the culture.
You can go into more indie territory for chill films that don’t focus on conflict and I’ll try to make another list at another time however, these are some of the mainstream ones that may help set you off on a cinematic journey into LGBT+ history month. Enjoy!