Happy Pride Month!
June gives us the opportunity to highlight and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. One of many ways to celebrate is by diving into films and television shows that center LGBTQ+ stories and creators. Identity expression through an artistic medium such as storytelling helps create safe spaces for representation. Seeing yourself reflected on screen, no matter where you are in the process of finding your identity, nurtures a place of understanding and affirmation. Here are some LGBTQ+ centric titles that span various decades and genres of storytelling.
A Fantastic Woman (‘Una mujer fantástica’) • 2017
Directed by Sebastián Lelio
Marina (Daniela Vega) and Orlando (Francisco Reyes) are in love and planning their future, when one night Orlando suddenly falls ill and passes away. Instead of being able to mourn her lover, Marina is treated with suspicion by authorities and with disdain by his family. She is forbidden to attend his funeral and thrown out of the apartment they shared. Mourning the loss of the man she loved, she finds herself under intense scrutiny from those with no regard for her privacy. A powerful perspective and fantastic performance by Daniela Vega carry this film through a resonating journey.
Rent or buy A Fantastic Woman on primevideo.com with a Prime Video subscription and 100% of proceeds go to The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. Learn more: amazon.ca/giveback.
But I'm A Cheerleader • 1999
Directed by Jamie Babbit
Megan (Natasha Lyonne) considers herself a typical American girl. She excels in school and cheerleading, and she has a handsome football-playing boyfriend, even though she isn't crazy about him. Her parents decide she's gay and send her to True Directions, a boot camp meant to alter her sexual orientation. While there, Megan meets a rebellious and unashamed teen lesbian, Graham (Clea DuVall). Though Megan still feels confused, she starts to have feelings for Graham. In this delightfully 90s film, Jamie Babbit engages in resonating commentary on the horrors of conversion therapy while taking a campy, social satire approach. Rather than sugar coat the underlying serious themes, the film's bubblegum aesthetic and sense of humour make the absurdity all the more clear.
Stream But I'm A Cheerleader on crave.ca with a Crave subscription.
Disclosure • 2020
Directed by Sam Feder
In this documentary, leading trans creatives and thinkers share heartfelt perspectives about Hollywood's impact on the trans community. For decades, representation on screen has affected how transgender people are seen by themselves and by others. Through exploring the history of trans images in film and television, the importance of truthful narratives shine. It is crucial to note that while representation is improving, there is still a long way to go, and the work continues. This eye-opening documentary is a compelling piece of work that should be essential viewing.
Stream Disclosure on netflix.com with a Netflix subscription.
Feel Good (Seasons 1 and 2) • 2020-21
Created by Mae Martin
Stand-up comic Mae Martin navigates a passionate, messy new relationship with her girlfriend, George, while dealing with the challenges of sobriety. The semi-autobiographical comedy series (created and co-written by Martin) is back for a second and final season, bringing with it all the pathos and humour that shine in the first. The series excels beautifully at expanding conversations around the fluidity of gender identity and what that means to a relationship. The second and final season maintains the lightheartedness that makes the first one soar, with the added layer of more challenging plot points. Mae Martin’s Feel Good is an intimate, confronting, and endearing portrayal of love.
Stream both seasons of Feel Good on netflix.com with a Netflix subscription.
Lingua Franca • 2020
Directed by Isabel Sandoval
An undocumented trans woman (Isabel Sandoval) seeking legal status in the US becomes romantically involved with the grandson of the elderly woman she cares for. Paranoid about deportation, she continues to work as a caregiver under a microscope in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY. This beautifully potent film is written, directed, produced, edited, and starring Isabel Sandoval. A wonderful feat from a gifted storyteller who brings a trans, migrant love story onto the screen with passion and care. Sandoval evokes feeling through moments of stillness and reflection while conveying a multi-layered story.
Stream Lingua Franca on netflix.com with a Netflix subscription.
No Ordinary Man • 2020
Directed by Aisling Chin-Yee & Chase Joynt
The legacy of Billy Tipton, a 20th-century American jazz musician and trans icon, is brought to life by a diverse group of contemporary trans artists. With an incredibly thoughtful approach, filmmakers Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt connect Tipton’s story to the people who followed in his footsteps. What makes No Ordinary Man an engaging documentary is the abundance of different perspectives and narratives uniting in a loving way to retell a misrepresented legacy. The power of role models, truthfulness, and understanding shines through from beginning to end.
Rent or buy No Ordinary Man on iTunes - Apple Canada.
Pariah • 2011
Directed by Dee Rees
A Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression. This stunning coming-of-age film explores a gay teenage girl (Adepero Oduye) living in New York and writing poetry. She goes through a heartbreaking and hopeful arc of asserting her identity and exploring relationships on the way to self-discovery. Writer-director Dee Rees tells a personal and layered story, led by the incredibly talented Adepero Oduye who brings the film to life with a beautiful performance.
Rent or buy Pariah on iTunes - Apple Canada.
Paris Is Burning • 1990
Directed by Jennie Livingston
Focusing on drag queens living in New York City and their "house" culture, which provides a sense of community and support for the flamboyant and often socially shunned performers. Groups from each house compete in elaborate balls that take cues from the world of fashion. Also touching on issues of racism and poverty, the film features interviews with a number of renowned drag queens, including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija and Dorian Corey.
Stream Paris Is Burning on crave.ca with a Crave subscription.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire • 2019
Directed by Céline Sciamma
On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the eighteenth century, a female painter (Noémie Merlant) is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman (Adèle Haenel). Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. A hypnotic, smoldering love story with two impeccable performances that make each moment feel so real. The story builds to a shattering final scene, reverberating long after the credits roll. Writer-director Céline Sciamma explores slow-burning attraction and creates moments of intensity from the quietest, gentlest of moments.
Rent or buy Portrait of a Lady on Fire on iTunes - Apple Canada.
Saving Face • 2004
Directed by Alice Wu
A Chinese-American lesbian (Michelle Krusiec) and her traditionalist mother (Joan Chen) are reluctant to go public with secret loves that clash against cultural expectations. Alice Wu’s delightful romantic comedy deserves to be more cherished and seen amongst the outpouring of films that dominate this genre. The few mainstream films about lesbians that do exist tend to be dramatic, emotionally devastating work. But it’s also crucial to see films that have a sweeter, more light-hearted tone. Saving Face is resonating for this reason; it’s a sweet and heartwarming rom-com with resonating themes.
Rent or buy Saving Face on iTunes - Apple Canada.
Schitt’s Creek • 2015-2020
Created by Dan Levy & Eugene Levy
When rich video-store magnate Johnny Rose and his family suddenly find themselves broke, they are forced to leave their pampered lives to regroup in Schitt's Creek. At the core of this delightful series is a stunning emotional arc in the characters. The Levys tell a fully realized story with an irresistible sense of humour. The Roses embark on a journey that sees them learn how to become better human beings, frankly. The beloved Canadian show (starring Catherine O’Hara, Annie Murphy, Dan Levy, and Eugene Levy) portrays a same-sex relationship in a completely accepting and heartwarming way.
Stream all seasons of Schitt’s Creek on netflix.com with a Netflix subscription.
Shiva Baby • 2021
Directed by Emma Seligman
A college student (Rachel Sennott) attends a family shiva where she is accosted by her relatives, outshined by her ex-girlfriend, and face-to-face with her sugar daddy and his family. Emma Seligman’s stunning debut feature is a funny, invigorating, fully realized pressure cooker. Seligman blends comedy with drama and hints of horror, while exploring a woman coming-of-age, self-worth, anxiety, sexuality, interfering family dynamics, power shifts in relationships, and traditions. The characterization is outstanding. The screenplay is quick witted. The sense of humour is a delight, providing constant laughs and lines so great you must keep up because you won’t want to miss them.
Rent or buy Shiva Baby on iTunes - Apple Canada.
Shirley • 2020
Directed by Josephine Decker
A famous horror writer (Elisabeth Moss) finds inspiration for her next book after she and her husband take in a young couple. Shirley is a delirious puzzle that asks more than it can answer. The film interrogates what it means to be a muse, what types of behaviors are accepted by geniuses, and the many expectations on women living in a man’s world. Elisabeth Moss knows how to put on a show. She brilliantly captures the blurred lines between her character’s fiction and reality.
Stream Shirley on primevideo.com with a Prime Video subscription.
The Half of It • 2020
Directed by Alice Wu
When smart but cash-strapped teen Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) agrees to write a love letter for a jock, she doesn't expect to become his friend - or fall for his crush Aster (Alexxis Lemire). Writer-director Alice Wu tells a charming and light-hearted story about young love and self-discovery that subverts many of the tropes often found in romantic coming-of-age films. The film centers a complex and nuanced relationship between Ellie and Aster, who are both navigating how best to communicate with each other.
Stream The Half of It on netflix.com with a Netflix subscription.
The Handmaiden • 2016
Directed by Chan-wook Park
1930s Korea, in the period of Japanese occupation, a young woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress who lives a secluded life on a large countryside estate with her domineering uncle. But, the maid has a secret: she is a pickpocket recruited by a swindler posing as a Japanese count to help him seduce the heiress to elope with him, rob her of her fortune, and lock her up in a madhouse. The plan seems to proceed according to plan until the women discover some unexpected emotions. Starring Kim Tae-ri and Yong-nyeo Lee, The Handmaiden shines with brilliant storytelling and a unique love story.
Stream The Handmaiden on primevideo.com with a Prime Video subscription.