This year has been a strange one. Australia was on fire, then the UK left the EU, then World War Three looked impending, then Covid cam, Cummings-gate, killer hornets, and then came the final straw. Our Black brothers and sisters said enough is enough to the institutional racism, and stood up to it. We are now in Pride Month, and given the current Black Lives Matter movement and Pride, it’s important to remember that it was a Black trans-woman who stood up and started the Stonewall riots that eventually lead to Pride. The LGBT society and Black people are linked in a history of oppression.
Now more than ever, we need to remember that we are all connected; different cultures, races, sexualities, we’re all part of one planet. To mark Pride, we at No Majesty want to take a moment to salute some films from around the world that show the struggles, and the joys, of the LGBT community. These may be dark and difficult times, filled with hate and anger, and there’s no shame in needing a rest from it. If you need to, take some time to yourself, with your loved ones, and enjoy a taste of a different country and of the LGBT+ community. We stand with you, we support you.
Joe + Bell
Veronica Kedar 2011 (Israel)
A rom-com about a drug dealer and a psychopath with suicidal tendencies might not seem like something that would A) be suitable for production in Israel or B) fertile ground for something enjoyable and yet this lesbian-centric story is very funny, and also has a kind of punk rock sensibility that makes you enjoy it’s no holds barred style. Veronica Kedar is Joe, and Sivan Levy is Belle, and the chemistry they illicit is palpable. It’s little known, but really enjoyable.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Celine Sciamma 2019 (France)
Possibly the biggest snub of the last awards season this moving story of a painter and an aristocrat that fall in love in 18th Century France is told with beauty, and with a slow broiling passion. It’s a film that sucks you in and holds your attention until the very end and is pretty much THE film of 2019. It is a work of art and the performances of Noemie Merlant and Adele Haenel along with Sciamma’s spot on direction make for an intoxicating mix.
Lost and Delirious
Lea Pool 2001 (Canada)
Though admirable this sometimes silly drama works because of the performances from Piper Perabo, Jessica Pare and Mischa Barton. The film itself is a little confused as to what it wants to be verging from coming of age / coming out story to over the top melodrama. But at all times the images conjured by director Pool and the performances keep this film often intriguing and at times moving.
Liz en Septiembre
Fina Torres 2014 (Venezuela)
Marketed as the first Spanish language lesbian film, this romantic drama adapts American play Last Summer at Bluefish Cove but adds importance for it’s look at Latinx. Patricia Velasquez is perfectly cast in the lead role and the film’s look at an older LGBT member gives it some gravity to, which is helped by the directorial hand of a woman who looks for nuance at all times.
Park Chan-Wook 2016 (South Korea)
When Park Chan-wook makes a movie you know the stuff is hitting the fan. Taking the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters and changing it from Victorian era Britain to Korea under Japanese colonial rule this erotic psycho-thriller is heavy of everything you could think. Gorgeous to look at the Oldboy director brings his painterly eye to the story and doesn’t let up. He’s helped by Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri’s committed performances, sadly the fairly obvious male gaze in the sexual scenes feels trite and a little exploitative.
The World Unseen
Shamim Sarif 2007 (South Africa)
This historical drama takes a look at two Indian South African women as they fall in love in Cape Town just as apartheid begins. The look at racism, sexism and homophobia is pointed but it’s really in the central duo that the film finds it’s feet, noting that apartheid was a blot against all races that weren’t white and that it remains a disgusting element of history. Director Shamim Sarif and her two stars Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth would team up a year later for the British-set LGBT romantic drama I Can’t Think Straight.
Yes or No
Saraswandee Wongsompetch 2010 (Thailand)
Known as being the first romantic comedy in Thailand with a “butch” lesbian character, the stars Sucharat Manaying and Suppanad Jitteleela ooze charisma and chemistry as the film plays to the strengths of the their talents as well as being lighthearted and somewhat fluffy. There is drama there, but it’s underlined by a streak of joy that is infectious at all times. It being available on Netflix should make it required viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in LGBT cinema.
Ben A. Williams 2016 (UK)
Based on a play by John Donnelly, this film shows it’s staging roots at times but is elevated above it’s trappings by two compelling performances by Russell Tovey and Arinze Kene. Adressing an issue that is more than a little timely, homosexuality’s place in football, the story is intimate drawing you in to the story of two ,men trying to make sense of one moment in their lives that affected everything.
Zero Chou 2007 (Taiwan)
Unsuitable for people who tend to want tattoos at the drop of a hat this drama about two women who find and fall for each other is an interesting look at online relationships and how they can be deeper than we realise. It’s sensitive, and twisty, but the central conceit of two people connecting over ink is an interesting one, and helps the metaphor for beauty outwards reflecting inwards. You will want a tattoo by the end of it though.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga
Shelly Chopra Dhar 2019 (India)
Taking vague inspiration from the P.G. Wodehouse novel A Damsel in Distress, this coming of age story has something going for it in it’s look at Indian manners and relationships. The humour is strong, and it has the feel of something that could be huge with the same crowd that loved East is East or even The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. There is a thread of humour stemming from the conservatives of Punjabi culture but it’s never mean spirited, in fact it has a great warmth to it.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Desiree Akhavan 2018 (USA)
Conversion therapy is a disgusting thing, attempting to torture the gay out of someone should never be seen as an option and considering the Vice President of the United States believes it’s viable means this film is all the more important. Akhavan’s drama sees a career best Chloe Grace Moretz, as well as sublime support from Sasha Lane and Forrest Goodluck, this searing drama takes a no-nonsense look at what kind of cruelty is burned into people who do this to LGBT+ people. If you’re not furious by the end, you’re not watching closely enough.
Pedro Almodovar 2004 (Spain)
No LGBT+ cinema list would be complete without at least one Almodovar movie. Almodovar’s ability to juggle light comedy and heavy drama is often overlooked but with a central turn from Gael Garcia Bernal, Bad Education ranks as one of the director’s best thanks in no small part to his incredible ability to deal with sexuality, abuse and vice with frank look but never judging and never condemning. He may have more popular films, ones that are more lauded, but Bad Education is a searing work from a seasoned pro that feels like the work of a newcomer.
Jean Marc-Vallee 2005 (Canada)
Before gaining plaudits for The Young Victoria, Dallad Buyers Club, Wild, Demolition as well as two lauded TV series in Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies, Valle made this Quebecois drama has a great duke box soundtrack. The story behind it, being co-written with his wife and taking inspiration from her upbringing is a great way of dealing with homosexuality and the old fashioned views that were once held. Not to mention that Marc-Andre Grondin gives a compelling central performance.
Scud 2009 (Hong Kong)