By: Juztin Bello, Copy Editor
At the unfortunate news of Pride celebrations being cancelled across the world at the hands of COVID-19 (AKA Miss Rona), many have found themselves disheartened at the move to a virtual Pride. The Vancouver Pride Society itself announced back in April that Vancouver’s Pride celebration, typically held in August, would also be put on hold. Yes, I know what you’re all thinking and I fully agree: Miss Rona is definitely homophobic.
However, the move to a virtual Pride Month does not mean we cannot celebrate queerness in different, less physical ways. One way is to celebrate the trials and journeys of the queer community through appreciating art dedicated to telling their stories. So, here is a list of five queer-centric films you should check out to keep Pride Month alive and running.
For fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the documentary The Queen will contextualize the culture of pageant drag. Released in 1968, the film follows the Miss All-America Camp Beauty Contest, a pageant held in New York City. In between cuts of the contestants rehearsing choreography and trying on outfits and wigs, they discuss the struggles of a drag queen, such as being deemed too feminine to join the military and the discourse around gender reassignment surgery.
The sisterhood shown in helping each other get into dresses and applying each other’s makeup is juxtaposed with the competitive side of the drag pageant world — a side which reveals itself in overdramatic breakdowns, petty arguments, and incredibly loud egos. Avid Drag Race fans may recognize the legendary Crystal LaBeija, who Season 9/All-Stars 3 contestant Aja impersonated for her All-Stars Snatch Game. Even for viewers who may not be well versed in Drag Race, the film is charmingly entertaining and very approachable to delve into the drag scene — trust me, the drama is so theatrical you can’t help but sit back and enjoy.
Based off of Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same name, Boy Erased follows Jared Eamons as he is sent to a gay conversion therapy facility. While there, Jared confronts the pressure that comes with having a pastor for a father and a complacent mother who only wants “what’s best for him.” As a film that mirrors Conley’s life, Boy Erased provides a window into the broken homes that many LGBTQ2+ members are subjected to. It offers an accurate and heartwrenching display of the hardships some LGBTQ2+ youth face, without appropriating or romanticizing them. As someone whose parents were more accepting of my sexuality, this film gave me a clear sense of my own privilege and put into perspective just how abusive conversion therapy is. I will warn that as a realistic depiction of conversion therapy, this movie contains triggering conversations and themes.
Stream: Crave and Hulu
Purchase: $19.99 on YouTube and Google Play
The Normal Heart
Another film that was first literature, The Normal Heart follows writer Ned Weeks in New York City in the midst of the rising HIV-AIDS crisis from 1981 to 1984. The film shows Ned and his friends struggling with loss due to the crisis. Elucidated in the film is the reoccuring oppressive rejection by news outlets not wanting to cover a disease mostly impacting homosexual men. Being based on real-life events, the film shows viewers an accurate depiction of the anxiety, companionship, and heartbreak that befell many during such grave circumstances. While there is romance involved throughout various plots of the movie, it puts an appropriate amount of weight on how heartbreaking this pandemic truly was. One particularly moving scene shows the coming together of LGBTQ2+ members in the face of discrimination — a sentiment I think is extraordinarily significant at this time.
Stream: Crave and Hulu
Rent: $3.99 (SD) and $4.99 (HD) on YouTube/Google Play
Purchase: $13.99 (SD) and $14.99 (HD) on YouTube/Google Play
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu)
Right off the bat, I will say this film is appropriately titled because it was literal fire. This French film sees a forbidden affair begin between two women in late 18th century France. Painter Marianne is commissioned to paint a portrait of aristocrat Héloïse who is being married off to a Milanese nobleman. Héloïse finds that her bond with Marianne grows stronger as the two spend more time together, complicating the fact that Héloïse is expected to be married.
Captivating in both cinematography and character chemistry, Portrait of a Lady on Fire truly brings to life the simultaneous thrill and sorrow that come with having someone light your fire, only for the presence of a man to put that out. As a non-traditional rom-com, I think this film captures the poetic injustice that sometimes accompanies falling in love as someone who is LGBTQ2+ and will have you wishing you were caught up in a whirlwind affair in 18th century France. If the plot isn’t enough, just look at the dresses in the film, they define elegance and I need one now.
Rent: $4.99 on YouTube and Google Play, $5.99 (HD) on YouTube
Purchase: $9.99 on Google Play, $12.99 (HD) on YouTube
Boys Don’t Cry
Despite this film being called Boys Don’t Cry, I sure as hell did watching it. The film is based off the real life story of Brandon Teena, a trans man, and follows his journey to find both himself and love. As Brandon traverses several hardships as a trans man, the film represents the strength that comes with continually facing oppression on the journey toward honing one’s identity.
Ultimately, this film doesn’t sugarcoat just how horrifically trans people are treated, and doesn’t rely on comedy or romance to give the main character presence and agency. Although this film was released in 1999, Boys Don’t Cry depicts several of the challenges the trans community continues to face today. Scenes in this movie display the disrespectful and immoral reality of blatant misgendering, hate crimes, and the lack of sympathy from people who do not wish to get involved in trans-related violence. While there are a few gruesome scenes, these offer a lens into the reality many trans people face on a day-to-day basis, and are truthfully significant to acknowledge and watch.
Stream: Crave and Hulu
Rent: $4.99 on Google Play
Purchase: $9.99 on Google Play