50 Years of LGBTQ Cinema
By Jim Farmer
Fifty years ago, our brothers and sisters stood up for themselves against a police raid and changed the history of LGBTQ rights forever. The night of June 28, 1969, marked the beginning of the Stonewall riots, at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village of New York. The riots are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading up to the modern fight for LGBTQ rights.
The liberation influenced every aspect of LGBTQ lives, especially cinema. In the 70s, LGBTQ characters began popping up on the silver screen out of the shadows and sidelines where they normally lived. It took a while for Hollywood to portray us three-dimensionally and not to kill us off with suicide or murder – or later, AIDS – or portray us all as unhappy and unbalanced, but we’re finally at a point where portrayals of LGBTQ individuals can be realistic and positive.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, Out On Film has partnered with Atlanta Pride for “50 Years of LGBTQ Cinema,” a free film series that begins April 4 with “La Cage Aux Folles,” the comedy classic about a male couple whose lives get crazy when one’s son decides to get married. It inspired the Robin Williams-Nathan Lane film “The Birdcage” as well as a beloved stage musical.
Some people have asked how we came up with our schedule. When we decided to do a film series, we wanted to make sure of certain elements. We wanted to make sure we had films from each decade – the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, 2000s, and 2010s. We wanted some variety – drama, comedy, romance, and history. Most importantly, as best we could, we wanted to make sure that the series was diverse and inclusive and had something for all audiences.
It’s not a political series, more a glimpse at each decade and signature films from each one. Some of the films we tried to get just didn’t work out. The classic “Paris is Burning” was a first choice but is in limbo while a DVD re-release gets launched and there are some current licensing issues with “The Boys in the Band.” Nonetheless, we are all delighted with the line-up.
Another priority was to avoid obvious choices and focus on a few under-the-radar selections. “Save Me” has long been a favorite of mine. It’s a terrific film starring gay actors Chad Allen and Robert Gant (“Queer as Folk”) as men who meet a Christian-run ministry trying to cure people of being gay. It’s extremely topical now, with conversion therapy in the news, and features a performance by Judith Light that is one of her finest. The affecting “Brother to Brother” takes place during the Harlem Renaissance as an elderly, gay black writer befriends a gay teenager. The series also offers the lesbian romance “Desert Hearts;” the empowering “Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis at 100;” the ground-breaking “The Watermelon Woman;” the gay romance “Shelter;” the exuberant “Saturday Church” (with some of the cast of “Pose”); the excellent Kenya lesbian romance “Rafiki;” and the crowd-pleasing “Pride.”
We look forward to sharing this free series with you.
50 Years of LGBTQ Cinema Schedule
“La Cage Aux Folles” at 7 p.m. at The Rush Center
“Desert Hearts” at 7 p.m. at The Rush Center
“Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis at 100” at 7 p.m. at Out Front Theatre Company
“The Watermelon Woman” at 9 p.m. at Out Front Theatre Company
“Save Me” at 5 p.m. at Out Front Theatre Company
“Brother to Brother” at 7 p.m. at Out Front Theatre Company
“Shelter” at 9 p.m. at Out Front Theatre Company
“Saturday Church” at 3 p.m. at Out Front Theatre Company
“Rafiki” at 5 p.m. at Out Front Theatre Company
“Pride” at 7 p.m. at Out Front Theatre Company