Celebrate the landmark Section 377 verdict with 5 landmark LGBTQ-themed films
Brokeback Mountain paved the way for several significant gay-themed films - Carol, Moonlight, Call Me By Your Name, Milk and The Danish Girl. Here are five more that deserve your attention.Updated: Sep 08, 2018 13:14 IST
The Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgment that opened with quotes by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Arthur Schopenhauer and John Stewart Mill, declared that homosexuality was no longer a crime in India.
The top court’s Thursday verdict was a defiant one, celebrated in most sections of liberal India and hailed as a welcome bit of good news in the increasingly confrontational times that we live in. But one of the more perceptive reactions to the judgment came from comedian Hannah Gadsby, who recently created quite the conversation around her masterpiece stand-up special, Nanette
She wrote that she was ‘thrilled’ at the verdict and ‘in awe of all those that fought for this change.’ But pay closer attention to her choice of words and you’ll notice a cautious tone of voice. “India has made it safer for the LGBTQ population,” she wrote, almost as if to ask: Is the worst really over? Does this really mean things will change? We’re safer but are we entirely saved?
The centuries of injustice might have taken away some of the optimism, but never the spirit. And the fight on the streets has often been mirrored in the arts - which, for years have served as an avenue for the oppressed to express themselves. For the longest time, films about homosexuality were somehow perceived as being aimed towards that community and not meant for ‘regular’ audiences.
We all know now how inaccurate this thought is - or, at least, that’s the hope. The watershed moment probably came in 2005, with the release of director Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain.
It paved the way for several significant gay-themed films - Carol, Moonlight, Call Me By Your Name, Milk and The Danish Girl (whose TV premiere the CBFC quashed, by the way) - that have found great success in popular culture and have even been ‘validated’ by the Oscars. Meanwhile, on TV, there has never been a better time for LGBTQ representation, with Trasparent, Looking, Queer as Folk and Orange is the New Black - among many others - flying the flag with pride.
We will not talk about any of these films or shows this week. Instead, we will shine a light upon those that perhaps haven’t been as widely accepted as some of the others; the films that have mostly remained in their insular communities, bursting for the opportunity to introduce themselves to the world.
The film announced the arrival of several blazingly talented voices - director Dee Rees, star Adepero Oduye and cinematographer Bradford Young. It is perhaps the most searing black LGBTQ movie behind Moonlight, and almost as difficult to watch. But like most challenging movies, it is also rewarding.
It’s sort of a romantic notion to believe that one can be changed fundamentally through great art, but if you’re willing to surrender to a black teenage girl’s coming-of-age story - regardless of where you are on this planet - then you’ll come out a different person, more empathetic to the lives of others, and therefore more open to understanding them.
The Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy
Director Gregg Araki has long been at the forefront of the New Queer Movement in cinema. His films Kaboom and Mysterious Skin even found some festival success, winning, like several films on this list, the Queer Palm at Cannes. But it was his Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy that opened the doors to where we are today.
Each of the three movies - Totally F**ked Up, The Doom Generation and Nowhere - embody his unique blend of violence and comedy, explicit sex and raw emotion.
I Killed My Mother
Xavier Dolan is one of my favourite directors working today. Six out of his seven feature films have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and have won him numerous accolades. And he is still in his twenties.
His debut feature, I Killed My Mother, however - written, produced, directed by and starring a 20-year-old Dolan - is a phenomenal encapsulation of his storytelling style. It’s part pop-art, part high-art, infused with his unique musicality and vulnerability and anger. Dolan has described the film as a semi-autobiographical story about coming-of-age as an outcast - although, several of his movies could fall under this category.
If you thought Radhika Apte was omnipresent, observe, for a moment, what James Franco was up to in 2013. He was a part of 10 films, in different capacities. Three of them were directed by him. One was based on a book he’d written. He got roasted on Comedy Central, he guest starred on a popular sitcom, he published two books, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Franco has always had an over-the-top manner in expressing himself - always through his art, perhaps because he isn’t all that expressive on screen - and how he chose to express his longstanding support for the LGBTQ communities made all sorts of sense. In 2013, Franco produced, shot and directed a 60 minute documentary called Interior.Leather.Bar. The idea was to reproduce the one hour of explicit footage that was cut from the 1980 Al Pacino film, Cruising - a film about a detective who infiltrates New York’s gay subculture. Cruising is considered a landmark film for gay representation in Hollywood - a confrontational moment of reckoning - and its graphic nature caused much controversy around the time of its release.
Keeping with his experimental attitude, much screen time in Interior.Leather.Bar is devoted to Franco’s cast of adult performers confused as to why he’d want to do this in the first place. When one of them asks him, Franco basically replies with a shrug.
Perhaps the most uplifting movie of its year, director Matthew Warchus’ comedy-drama about a group of LGBTQ characters who decide to support a miner’s union, is one of those films that could have developed a reputation as a modern classic had the stars aligned in its favour.
In it, a group of gay activists, empathising with a group of protesting miners - who have become the police’s new targets because of their daily disputes over their rights - offer to support their cause. Initially, the miners resist - do they really want the support of another oppressed community, particularly the gays? - but eventually, the clashing personalities find common ground, and realise that at the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing: To be treated with respect. Pride is absolutely beautiful; it’s empowering and unabashedly optimistic and has a message that should be plastered on banners and thrust in the faces of the cruel bigots. Perhaps save this one for last.
First Published: Sep 08, 2018 13:12 IST