By Cody Dericks
As the events of the past month have shown all of us, the struggle for equality in America is far from over. And in this month of Pride, rather than the outright celebration that’s often found in many American cities, I think this is a time that could instead be a period of introspection for the queer community; learning and engaging with both our history and our current moment. In that spirit, I’ve compiled a list of politically-minded queer films that encompass what I believe would be helpful to explore at this moment. Some of these films are outwardly political in their stories, while some challenge the status quo just by nature of whom and what they depict. I wanted to focus more on films that are slightly outside of the conversation, so although you won’t find films like “Carol” or “Moonlight” on here they are still worth watching, especially this time of year.
A Fantastic Woman
The winner of the 2017 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Sebastián Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman” is a deceptively simple study in humanity. It follows Marina, a trans-Chilean woman whose boyfriend suddenly and unexpectedly dies. In the wake of this loss, she must confront her boyfriend’s family to settle the remaining affairs. Marina is met with aggressions both micro and macro from the family and other people she’s forced to interact with across the course of the film. While it’s sometimes hard to watch, Marina is an unwavering exemplar of strength, and having the audience follow her point of view for nearly the entire story allows us to recognize and sympathize with her struggles and draw confidence from her power. “A Fantastic Woman” shows the bravery, both obvious and subtle, that is sometimes required to live one’s truth in a society that doesn’t always work in one’s favor.
Available to rent
And Then We Danced
This small, captivating drama was Sweden’s entry for Best International Feature at the most recent Academy Awards. “And Then We Danced” depicts the surreptitious romance between two male traditional Georgian dancers. While it excels as a film in the way it shows the intolerance towards same-sex relationships in modern-day Georgia, the events surrounding the film in real life are just as notable. Members of the crew received death threats while filming, the Georgian dance choreographer refused credit to protect their anonymity, and when the film itself opened in Georgia, it was met with nearly unending protests. For a film about the simple need for respect and understanding, the lack of respect and understanding it received from the country it depicts only serves to further deepen its themes in a metatextual way. While we still have a long path to equality in America, in other parts of the world queer people have it even worse, and this film is a surprisingly warmhearted and lovely depiction of that continuing struggle.
Available to rent
BPM (Beats Per Minute)
Sprawling and ambitious, “BPM” shows the passion and activism of the Paris chapter of ACT UP as they protest and demonstrate against government inaction in regards to HIV/AIDS in the early ‘90s. It serves as both a time capsule of protest and as a romantic look into the lives of two male activists as they fall in love. This simple and unadorned film is a testament to the power of political acts as large as invading pharmaceutical offices and as small as simply loving someone that society says you shouldn’t.
Where to stream: Hulu & Kanopy
How To Survive A Plague
Covering similar ground as “BPM,” this documentary shows the political actions of the founding chapter of ACT UP in New York City across the 1980s and into the ‘90s. It shows the unapologetically aggressive tactics the group used and the actual change that was a direct result of their uncompromising protest style. Its archival footage is unendingly powerful, showing both the group’s public demonstrations and private meetings, including an earth-shattering moment where playwright Larry Kramer interrupts the group’s infighting by famously bellowing: “Plague!” This documentary is an important reminder of the history of a generation of queer people that was nearly wiped out due to the government’s intentional neglect.
Where to stream: Amazon Prime