Ursula Muñoz Schaefer/Opinion Director
Pride Month is looking kind of different this year.
For Panthers whose plans were ruined thanks to the pandemic, staying safe at home and watching your favorite queer films may be the better way to spend June. And as protests in honor of Black lives continue nationwide, what better time to reflect on inclusivity within the LGBTQ+ community?
In the spirit of intersectionality, here are 10 films worth watching not just this Pride Month, but any time of the year.
1. Paris Is Burning (1990)
It would be sacrilege not to start this list with “Paris Is Burning,” which is perhaps the most influential queer documentary of all time.
The film focuses on the house-ballroom culture of the 1980s, which was predominantly composed Black and Latino members of the LGBTQ+ community. Covering a wide array of sexualities and gender presentations, “Paris Is Burning” focuses most on the cis gay men and trans women whose impact on our day-to-day culture is undeniable.
2. Moonlight (2016)
“Moonlight” wasn’t just the first queer film to win Best Picture when it stacked up Oscars in 2017—it was also the first film with an all-black cast to do so. And yet, its resonance with many queer people and people of color has less to do with accolades and more to do with its understanding of repression and vulnerability.
The tender coming-of-age tale tells the story of a closeted gay black man named Chiron at three different stages of his life. It tackles the toxic masculinity that festers in marginalized communities, while still being compassionate towards every character that Chiron associates with and dispelling myths concerning the working class and people of color.
3. Pariah (2011)
Five years prior to “Moonlight,” there was “Pariah.”
Based, in part, on director Dee Rees’ own struggles as a black lesbian, “Pariah” tells the story of Alike, a closeted teen whose identity and gender expression raise concerns among her conservative parents. It’s a harrowing but ultimately poignant portrait of growing up and coming to terms with who you are, and it deserves more recognition.
4. Tangerine (2015)
Few movies that take you on a journey as wild and hilarious as “Tangerine” manage to stick the emotional landing as well in the end.
Played by non-actors and shot on an iPhone, “Tangerine” follows two trans prostitutes named Sin-Dee and Alexandra as they search for Sin-Dee’s pimp boyfriend, who cheated on her while she was in jail. If telling that story sounds like a recipe for disaster, director Sean Baker navigates it with an empathy and understanding for the characters. It’s a story of friendship like no other.
5. Strong Island (2017)
Supporting queer films also means watching films by queer filmmakers, even when they don’t revolve around queer subject matter specifically. Such is the case with “Strong Island,” the Netflix documentary that made Yance Ford the first transgender director ever nominated for an Oscar.
“Strong Island” follows Ford as he examines the brutal murder of his brother and the judicial system that let the killer get away scott-free. It’s an intimate tale of grief that challenges systemic racism and couldn’t feel more relevant in the wake of today’s nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice.
6. The Watermelon Woman (1996)
A pearl of the 1990s’ New Queer Cinema movement, Cheryl Dunye’s “The Watermelon Woman” is a hilarious and brilliant study of race, sexuality and empty liberalism.
The film stars Dunye herself as a video store clerk who becomes obsessed with a silent film actress known for playing stereotypical “mammy” roles relegated to black actresses in the 1930s. As fictional Cheryl researches this woman’s life to make her own documentary-style film, she must also balance work, friendships and a complicated love life. A comfort film if there ever was one.
7. Tongues Untied (1989)
In “Tongues Untied,” director Marlon Riggs states that he wants to “shatter the nation’s brutalizing silence on matters of sexual and racial difference.” And that’s exactly what his intense, experimental documentary ends up doing.
Intercutting documented footage with poetry and personal anecdotes from both Riggs and other gay black men, “Tongues Untied” explores the intersection or race and sexuality. It’s critical of the anti-blackness projected in many LGBTQ+ spaces, as well as homophobia among both black and white Americans.
While this film is a rare find, FIU students can access it for free, right here.
8. Good Manners (2017)
There’s little that can be said about “Good Manners” without spoiling anything, but what you do need to know about the Brazilian fantasy-horror drama is that the emotional journey it takes you on is well worth the film’s stranger aspects.
The story revolves around a nurse named Clara, who is hired by a strange but beautiful woman named Ana as the nanny for her unborn child. What begins as a quiet and observant drama becomes increasingly bonkers as the women form a bond and Clara begins to unravel the mystery of who Ana is. There are also werewolves.
9. Pelo Malo (2011)
In “Pelo Malo,” Venezuelan director Mariana Rondón explores themes like race, sexuality and self-loathing through the story of a boy named Junior, who is dead-set on finding an effective method of straightening his nappy hair. Junior’s relationship with his homophobic mother becomes increasingly strained when she starts to suspect that he is gay.
Beyond the compelling coming of age story, you’ll find a nuanced portrayal of a country in crisis. The child being forced into a mold is, of course, an allegory for conformity under authoritarianism, as the film takes place during the last leg of Hugo Chavez’s regime.
10. Rafiki (2018)
“Rafiki” tells the very straightforward story of two Kenyan girls who fall in love, despite their fathers being political rivals campaigning for a local election. If that sounds simple, wait until you hear about the controversy surrounding the movie.
Back in 2018, the Kenyan Film Classification Board banned “Rafiki” for “promoting lesbianism in Kenya, contrary to the law.” Director Wanuri Kahiu filed a lawsuit, arguing that the ban was an unconstitutional assault on the right to freedom of expression, resulting in the ban being lifted for a week-long theater run.
“It was banned because of the content… not because necessarily the film showed two girls in love, but because the ending was hopeful,” Kahiu said.
Until the world becomes more accepting, “Rafiki,” like the other films on this list, stands as a clear example of how art can challenge the status quo.
Happy Pride Month! Now get to watching.