LGBT Films You Might Not Have Seen Before
These LGBT films, while not considered mainstream, hit hard
There is plenty going on in the world but the start of this month also means that we welcome back Pride Month with open arms. And since most of us are still stuck at home, we’re choosing to celebrate with some LGBT films that aren’t exactly what you’d call mainstream.
Look, I love Call Me By Your Name and Brokeback Mountain just as much as the next person, but it’s time for a little change.
In director Giorgos Katakouzinos’ Angelos, we meet a young man who keeps his sexuality a secret from those around him. As Angelo works his way through the army, his story intersects with that of Mikhalis, a rough sailor. The two move in together and Mikhalis convinces Angelo to dress in drag and work the corner. Angelo is eventually found out and is beaten by men in his neighborhood. The army discharges him; his father is outraged. And suddenly, Mikhalis wants nothing to do with him.
The plot sound familiar? The story a little overdone? The father’s reaction a little too expected? Well, that’s the whole goddamn point. But here are some experiences that are unique to this film, released before mainstream society was ready for it: a depiction of violent self-expression, prostitution as a family business and the realization that some attitudes have not changed in almost four decades.
The Hunger (1983)
Catherine Deneuve as Miriam Blaylock, David Bowie as John Blaylock and Susan Sarandon as Sarah Roberts. Miriam is the OG vampire, spending her eternity promising humans everlasting life and John is her most “recent” lover. When John finds his body suddenly aging rapidly (because everlasting life does not mean everlasting youth), he seeks out scientist Sarah to help him. When Miriam locks John in a coffin, Sarah visits his home looking for him. And when Miriam and Sarah meet…well, the sparks fly.
Sometimes called a cult classic, The Hunger took sexploitation in lesbian vampire films and ran with it. The message of the revolution and the lacking demise of the last female vamp? A challenge to patriarchy.
Show Me Love (1998)
In this depiction of young love in all its confusion, embarrassment and bravery, we meet Agnes and Elin—the former silent and outcast, the latter popular and beloved in the little town of Åmål. Agnes’ mother throws her a sweet 16 party, which Elin attends in order to avoid another party (and a boy). There, Elin is dared by her older sister to kiss Agnes and the two run away after the deed is done. Later that evening, Elin comes back to apologize for humiliating Agnes and the two set out on an short-lived adventure, a real first kiss and having to come out.
If you like John Hughes, you’ll like this one. And as a bit of trivia, Hollywood had the name changed from Fucking Åmål to Show Me Love. Fucking why?
Markova: Comfort Gay (2001)
During World War II, the Philippines suffered—not just economically, but emotionally as well. So many of our countrymen were forced into prostitution, including those that were not-so-endearingly dubbed “comfort gays.”
In this film, Dolphy plays the role of Markova, with his sons Eric Quizon and Epi Quizon portraying younger versions of the real-life character. We see his journey, from a tormented childhood under the hands of older relatives to the suffering he endured in the hands of Japanese soldiers. That Quizon charm is palpable in the film—but so are the struggles Markova and his friends had to endure.
Before Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, director Céline Sciamma had Tomboy. Following the story of 10-year-old Laure who moves into a new town and introduces herself as Mikael, the film tries to tackle gender confusion with sensitivity and a delicacy. We see Mikael make friends, alter clothes and essentially blossom—while the rest of the children remain unassuming and unquestioning. That is, until the boys undo their pants, collectively piss standing up and one of them finds Mikael squatting in the woods.
Some might argue that the subject of Mikael is a little too young, but let me just say: No.
Laurence Anyways (2012)
Laurence Anyways is the story of a man, Laurence and the woman he is with, Frédérique (AKA Fred). In one of the scenes, he tells her: “When I first saw you, Fred, I thought it’d go away. I love you, but I have to love you the way I am”—and therein starts their real journey. Fred, at the onset, is confused and frustrated but ends with: “I need him. I need to wake up beside him.”
We see them go through the journey together, the wigs, the dresses, the heels, the stares, the fights. And in the end…well, it’s a poignant moment to see what influence you have on someone, when you realize just how your support and sheer existence helped them.
Die Beautiful (2016)
While one of the more recent and most mainstream pieces of Filipino gay cinema, Die Beautiful paints the picture of a life that, while dark, chooses to look at the better side of things in a fame-in-the-time-of-death narrative that we’re all too familiar with.
In the film, Tricia Echevarria (Paolo Ballesteros) has passed, his wake visited by friends as they share stories of her life. When the media gets hold of the wake, where Tricia is made up differently every day to look like one of her favorite celebrities, it becomes a circus of epic (and unwanted) proportions.
Billie & Emma (2018)
Welcome to the 90s: an era of memorable fashion moments, music videos and a new way of thinking.
Directed by Samantha Lee, Billie & Emma tells the story of two girls in high school, finding their way through love, academics and sexual awakening. Ironically, the film’s forefront LGBT theme is only its underlying topic; it touches on youth and social responsibility, women’s rights and the overall power (and need) to make your own choices.
Rainbow’s Sunset (2018)
Starring Eddie Garcia, Gloria Romero and Tony Mabesa as Ramon Estrella, Sylvia Estrella and Fredo Veneracion respectively, this entry to the MMFF 2018 lineup was the refreshing player we needed that year.
After years of living a double life, Ramon is finished when he is 84 years old and hears that his best friend, Fredo, is gravely ill. Determined that the rest of their years will not be cloaked by society’s expectations of them, Ramon comes out to his family about the real love of his life. But is there such a thing as too late?
The Half Of It (2020)
In the small town of Squahamish, Ellie (Leah Lewis) lives a life that is secluded, silent and secret. When Paul (Daniel Diemer) hires Ellie to write love letters for him, she’s introduced to popular-but-misunderstood Aster (Alexxis Lemire). And as Ellie tries to make Aster fall in love with Paul, it’s Ellie who ends up falling—really falling—for Aster.
Much like a typical coming-of-age story, The Half Of It touches on the strength of friendship, the importance of family and the need to do things for yourself above all else. But unlike your typical coming-of-age film, it beautifully unfolds a love story that is unique, unexpecting and completely generous.
Are you with me? Let’s make a theme out of the month. If we ~can~ stay home, let’s. And while we’re at it, let’s open some perspectives and experience something new with a few lesser-known LGBT films.
Art Alexandra Lara