Ivana Brehas presents her Top Five Queer cinema gems in celebration of yesterday’s #IDAHOT (International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia).
Are LGBT films considered a genre?
And if so, why aren’t all other films called straight films?
It’s an unfortunate truth that Hollywood just doesn’t cater to queer audiences, but every once in a while we are lucky enough to find a really great LGBT film. In honour of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, I present you with a list of my top five queer cinema gems:
Paris is Burning (1990) dir. Jennie Livingston
This invaluable documentary about New York City ball culture has influenced modern LGBT culture in countless ways. They were “voguing” a year before Madonna made a song about it. All the slang cisgender white gay men use on RuPaul’s Drag Race (i.e. “shade”, “realness”, “reading) originated from these African-American, Latino, gay and transgender communities. This film is like a history class for queer people who never learned about themselves at school.
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) dir. Jamie Babbit
Jamie Babbit’s lesbian coming-of-age comedy has a special place in my heart for a multitude of reasons. To begin with, it stars a twenty-year-old Natasha Lyonne as the eponymous cheerleader Megan, and she plays the part brilliantly. She’s naïve, wholesome, as American as apple pie, and completely oblivious to her own latent homosexuality. Her parents, who are anything but oblivious to it, send her to a conversion therapy camp called True Directions. Which brings me to the next reason I love this film: the set design. In a brilliant artistic move, True Directions is made to look like a Barbie Dreamhouse – dominated by bright blues and pinks. On the surface, it’s simply a feast for the eyes, but it also serves the purpose of criticizing the gender binary. It’s one of the most fun LGBT films out there, and a must-watch for all queer youth!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) dir. Richard O’Brien
It’s not an LGBT movie list without everyone’s favourite campy sci-fi horror musical. Watching Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) get swept into the world of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) and his hypersexual servants never gets old. Rocky Horror is always comforting to watch, perhaps because for once the queer characters outnumber the straight ones– and really, are Brad and Janet even straight?
Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013) dir. Abdellatif Kechiche
Raw, intense, emotional and fearless, this film – based on a French graphic novel – is one that stays with you long after you have seen it. As only the best films do, Blue Is the Warmest Colour takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster – so if you’re looking for a light-hearted LGBT flick for your IDAHoBiT celebratory slumber party, this isn’t it. However, if you’re looking to watch something of real cinematic and narrative value, go right ahead.The film unanimously won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and rightly so. In fact, the jury’s president, Steven Spielberg, insisted that the award be accepted not only by director Abdellatif Kechiche, but by the film’s brilliant stars, Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975) dir. SidneyLumet
Based on truth, this Academy Award-winning film follows the story of inexperienced criminal Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) as he attempts to rob a bank. Being remarkably considerate, Wortzik ensures no-one is hurt in the process and ends up with a hostage situation on his hands. The 12-hour-long robbery garners nationwide attention and media coverage . What does this have to do with LGBT films? He was robbing the bank to pay for his wife’s sex reassignment surgery. While the film’s plot has virtually nothing to do with this transgender issues, it still makes the list for being one of the first films in history to openly portray queer characters.