Tara Brown, Programmer for Wotever DIY Film Festival gives her queer favourites!
In no particular order:
Pariah (2011, Dee Rees)
I remember seeing this at the 2011 LLGFF in NFT1 and being completely transported and highly moved. Before then I had simply never seen black LGBT people on screen, let alone without parody or caricature. This film is beautiful and moving, a study of tricky mother-daughter relationships, coming out, first heartbreak. For some reason, distributors have not made this film available until very recently but this has been a barometer of quality to me for every queer film I’ve seen since.
Tongues Untied (1989, Marlon Riggs)
This is by the criminally unknown Marlon Riggs who passed away in the early 1990s. Tongues Untied explores with real depth the reality of gay black man love, that black men loving other black men is a revolutionary act. Made with real craft, searing spoken word and full of ideas it’s a film unlike many I’ve seen and left me glowing long after I viewed it.
Appropriate Behaviour (2014, Desiree Akhavan)
I managed to miss this film somehow at the 2015 BFI Flare and vowed to make amends. I was so glad I did because this film is so funny, funny-ow and full of life. It’s one of the few films that I feel have any resemblance to my narratives of desire and how I view sex, as well as the awkward-real-lovely relationship between one’s sexuality, family and race.
Pride (2014, Matthew Warchus)
A film to remind me that being queer also means being radical, and that the marginalised do not exist in a vacuum, and in fact CAN and SHOULD unite together in our politics to make some real change and live the solidarity we preach in our queer politics. It is a history to be proud of and a legacy to continue, and was left with ugly tears at the end.
Stories of Our Lives (2014, Nest Collective)
When I first saw this film, I literally ran down the director afterwards and gave him our business, and it subsequently became the WDIYFF 2015 opening film. It’s the black queer film I’d been waiting for since seeing Pariah – a film honouring real stories from the LGBTQ community within Kenya. It’s a beautifully made DIY debut film and perfect for the cinema. I love this film something fierce. I deem it essential viewing, but you can’t find this film on Amazon – when the film was sent to the Kenya film classification board, it was promptly banned and the director was arrested (and since freed). So use this as an opportunity to support your local queer film festival if they’re showing it. It is also on BFI player.
Bound (1996, Wachowski sisters)
I remember my apprenticeship tutor slipping me the DVD for this film in secret during one of our classes. If any of the other students noticed we really could have been in a lot of trouble (which is amazing as we were both adults!) and the trouble was all so that I could watch this 90s’ classic. It’s a sizzling noir-like film starring Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, a daring heist and my favourite mainstream lesbian sex scene ever (no contest). It was also the first lesbian film I saw that showed me lesbian films didn’t have to be all about coming out – Bound was genuinely exciting and tense and I have a huge fondness for it to this day.
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985, Stephen Frears)
‘I’m a professional businessman, not a professional Pakistani!’ I’ll always remember that line. I also really enjoy films that don’t keep themes of sexuality and politics separate. A good British classic.
Weekend (2011, Andrew Haigh)
It’s a romantic film, the kind that I love with sexy bits and meandering bits, long conversations and tearful goodbyes.
Dyke Hard (2014, Bitte Anderson)
This film feels like a miracle – a Swedish DIY Queer B Movie Battle of the Bands film! Raucous, hilarious, disgusting, loud and a lightning bolt of queer energy. It’s a B-movie without being shitty to people and seen with a crowd of reactive queers is one of the best film experiences I’ve ever had. Essential viewing!!!
Watermelon Woman (1996, Cheryl Dunye)
I was invited to speak on a panel to celebrate this film. It’s a fantastic feature debut from Cheryl Dunye, and I’m so inspired by their message for the invisibilised to create their own stories and own our histories, or at least an interrogated historical version of it. I feel no qualms mentioning Cheryl’s work in the same breath as Steven Spielberg and Hancock, as they are all auteurs – you can recognise their style of film making a mile away and their body of work really reflects their beliefs and directorial style. All the same, I still feel that sense of disbelief that this pioneering film, the first Black lesbian film only came about in 1996.