By Kevin Assam
Photo: Sony Pictures, Music Box Films, Sundance,
You won’t admit you haven’t seen these and that’s OK. I was also late to the burning Parisian train. Here are four LGBTQ+ films and documentaries from across the globe that you should catch up on. Along with their probably incorrectly assigned letters. There may be subtitles involved. Minor spoilers ahead.
Pain and Glory (2019)
Antonio Banderas has still got it. The it here referring to a beautiful mop of hair, a penchant for color blocking, and just the right level of character broodiness to make you fall in love. Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, an accomplished filmmaker fumbling his way through a world of pain. Tinnitus, a developing taste for heroin, achy joints, and depression have combined to momentarily hamper his artistry. His journey back from the edge is a romantic and well-paced hour and a half jaunt from childhood to the death and rebirth of art and life around him.
The G: Salvador’s trauma is partly connected to a younger romance that fell apart when his lover became an addict. Revisiting one of his earlier works potentially opens the door to a serendipitous reunion. There are also funny and touching “flashbacks” to Salvador’s first homoerotic experiences as a child living in the white cave working class communities.
Paris is Burning (1990)
This is here largely for everyone who can quote Jennie Livingston’s groundbreaking documentary but hasn’t actually seen it. It wasn’t until two years ago that I was mercifully forced to sit down and be educated by this chronicling of New York’s early ballroom scene (which has happily returned). The documentary was admittedly filmed by white outsiders and, many would say, for outsiders. Still, watch it. Particularly if you are under the age of 30 and are only going off the ballroom references of FX’s hit TV series POSE.
The LGBTQ+: Everyone. That’s who was allowed to “walk” the categories. Anyone with nerves of steel that is and a dramatic flair. You’ll be introduced to drag queens, House mothers, trans people, brown people, queer kids. The documentary captures those who are different and struggling but hell bent on becoming somebody in the scene and world.
A Fantastic Woman (2018)
Maria Vidal (Daniela Vega) is on edge. Her lover perishes. As if that wasn’t enough, the ensuing fallout from a bitter grieving family as well as daily harassment leads to some beautifully shot rage induced scenes. The plot holds but this is all about Vegas’ performance, which propelled the film to snag an Academy Award (yet, you still haven’t seen it). Vegas draws on her real world encounters to deliver this unforgettable tale of mourning.
The T: Vega and her character are transgender making the amount of despise hurled her way all too believable. As much as a non-transgender individual can relate, the film feels very much in step and of the now.
And Then We Danced (2019)
Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) is a wiry rising Georgian dancer on the brink of his academic breakthrough and discovery of queerness. Possibly sensing the latter, Merab’s boisterous instructor continues to hurl semi-useless feedback criticizing his “softness.” If only he recognized how fierce Merab actually is. As the beautiful final scene displays. This is very much a coming of age tale wrapped in the gorgeous cloak of one country’s traditional dance and conservative hyper-masculine reinforcements.
The G: The arrival of a new broad shouldered “in your face” dancer gives way to a classmate bond and, eventually, countryside lust. The film hits some of the usual youthful gay pains we’ve come to know: outing, verbal and physical harassment, and dances out of, back into, and around the closet. It’s far from a paint by numbers approach and maintains fascinating character developments.