Keshet Recommends: LGBTQ Cinema

In this resource you will find a guide on how to choose an LGBTQ film for a community screening, educational program, or discussion group. We have also included a short list of films that feature a variety of LGBTQ lives and perspectives that Keshet staff recommend. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all LGBTQ films so please use the included guide when reviewing films not included in this list

July 13, 2020

By Zora Berman and Emily Saltzman, Keshet

In the past decade LGBTQ visibility in television, film and entertainment has increased exponentially. With all of this exposure it is important that we review and critique the type of stories that are showcased for the viewers of these films. Throughout history, films and documentaries have been an integral medium to showcase the lives of LGBTQ people. While many films uplift the lives of LGBTQ people and help us feel less isolated and alone, some films can feature hurtful stereotypes that can give LGBTQ people a shortsighted view of our own future. 

In this resource you will find a guide on how to choose an LGBTQ film for a community screening, educational program, or discussion group. We have also included a short list of films that feature a variety of LGBTQ lives and perspectives that Keshet staff recommend. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all LGBTQ films so please use the included guide when reviewing films not included in this list. We believe that film provides a powerful glimpse into experiences different than our own and in some cases reflects back our most meaningful truths. While we include a “suggested audience” with each film, we also highly recommend pre-screening a film before showing it for an audience. We hope you enjoy this list!

Planning a Community Film Screening?

See below for a set of questions to ponder and online resources to review when choosing a LGBTQ film to screen for a community program. Also research if your city, state, province, or community puts on an LGBTQ film festival. This could be a great way to learn about the latest films and develop creative partnership opportunities.

Who made this film?

The team behind a film can often make a huge difference in the story line, actors cast and general story arc of a film. It can be helpful to learn about the producers, directors, and writers involved in a film to identify their connection to the topics illustrated in the film. See below for questions to ponder:

  • Is the producer, director, or writer a member of the LGBTQ community? If so, do they publicly talk about being a member of the LGBTQ community? If not, how do they speak about portraying the lives of LGBTQ people authentically, fully, and respectfully?
  • When was this film made? Was the cultural climate supportive of LGBTQ issues? 
  • Was this film banned in any states/provinces/countries?
  • What other films have the producer, director, or writer been involved in?

Do LGBTQ people praise this film?

Some may say any visibility is good visibility, but we find that all too often LGBTQ characters are included in a film to provide comic relief or to shift a storyline instead of providing a platform for authentic visibility. While one LGBTQ person cannot speak on behalf of the entire community, it is important to find out if an LGBTQ character/film helps or harms the community. See below for questions to ponder:

  • Have you received a recommendation for this film by an LGBTQ community member, organization or friend? More than once?
  • Has this film been reviewed by LGBTQ film critics/organizations or publications?
  • Are LGBTQ celebrities, authors, or thinkers talking about the impact of this film?

Check out Queer Fim Society, Autostraddle, or The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics for their thoughts.

What happens to the LGBTQ characters in the film?

Oftentimes films that follow the lives of communities that are viewed as living on the margins, can perpetuate harmful stereotypes in the storyline. These stereotypes can be used as a reason for discriminatory behavior and even violence towards members of the LGBTQ community in real life. It is important for us to provide a variety of narratives in order to uplift the true variety of LGBTQ individuals and their lived experiences. See below for questions to ponder:

  • Do these characters find love? 
  • Do these characters feel connected to their families? 
  • Are they alive at the end of the film? 
  • Do they have a supportive community?
  • Do they have complicated story arcs? 
  • Are they the main character? 
  • Do they only serve the main character’s needs?

Read the latest “Where We Are on TV” and “Studio Responsibility Index” reports by GLAAD to dive deeper into these questions.

Drama and Comedy  

The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love – 1995

This sweet film follows the love story between two teenage girls from very different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. While this film is dated, it is one of the few films that includes an uplifting ending which unfortunately is not the norm for most films featuring lesbian characters. This film is suitable for teens and adults. 

Ma Vie En Rose – 1997

This french movie focuses on the main character, Ludovic, and her family. Ludovic insists that she is a girl despite being assigned male at birth. This film illustrates what can happen when a child transitions without a supportive family. This is a fun and whimsical movie that also has some difficult family dynamics to watch. This movie is suitable for youth groups. 

Saving Face – 2004

This romantic comedy drama follows the experience of a young Chinese-American surgeon, her mother and her dancer girlfriend trying to reconcile their futures that are in contrast to their family’s expectations. This film is suitable for teens and adults. 

The Bubble – 2006

This is an Israeli film that follows a group of friends in Tel Aviv and explores the political realities and challenges that young Tel Avivans face. In the movie an Israeli soldier falls in love with a Palestinian man. The story follows how they navigate a relationship that is challenged by borders, conflicts, and politics. This is a fun movie with some brief nudity as well as substance use and sexual content. This movie is appropriate for adults and for some mature high school youth groups.

The Way He Looks – 2014

The Way He Looks is a Brazilian romance that places Leonardo, a blind young man, as its protagonist. It is a very sweet and romantic coming of age movie that tackles issues such as ability, sexuality, and friendship with humor and grace. This is a really excellent choice for youth groups and teenagers. 

Pride – 2014 

This historical dramedy showcases the true 1980s story of a gay community in London and a working class Welsh miner community fighting for their rights together in a time when these groups would be farthest from allies. This is a powerful story of friendship, solidarity, and community organizing. This is appropriate for teens and adults. 

A Fantastic Woman – 2017

This Argentine drama follows Marina, a transgender woman, dealing with the grief of her recently deceased boyfriend. The movie focuses on how her boyfriend’s family rejects her and the police try to pin the fault of her boyfriend’s death on her. The audience follows how she tries to maintain her dignity and humanity, all while navigating her personal mourning of her loved one. It is a very touching film that contains some violence and sexual content. This movie is most appropriate for adults. It is a good depiction of transphobic and transmisogynist violence that trans women face. 

BPM – 2017

This french drama follows the lives of members of the AIDS activist group ACT UP. It is a thoughtful look into the lives of those who lived and died during the rise of the AIDS epidemic in France. The movie contains sexual content and has graphic images of those affected by AIDS. This movie is best suited for adults. 

Disobedience – 2017

This drama follows a woman who returns to her Orthdox Jewish community after her father dies. The main character was originally cast out of her community because of her same gender attraction to her childhood best friend. The film is a drama that is an interesting look into the Orthodox Jewish community, faith, attraction, and sexuality. This movie has significant sexual content and brief nudity. This movie is more appropriate for adults.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – 2018

This movie takes place in the 90s, with the protagonist being forced into a gay conversion boarding school by her guardian. The movie has an honest portrayal of queer attraction and interrogates how religon-based shame can impact youth sexual development. There is some light substance use and some scenes of sexual intimacy, however it is not voyeuristic or egregious. This is appropriate for a high school age youth and adults. 

Documentaries 

Before Stonewall – 1984

This documentary begins with the great depression and leads up to the Stonewall Riots and subsequent gay rights movements of the 1960s. The movie mixes interviews with a large collection of archival images and audio woven throughout to paint a picture of what life was like in America during that time. This movie is a solid educational film for both teens and adults. 

The Celluloid Closet – 1995

This documentary, based on the book of the same name, outlines the history of gay and lesbian characters from silent films of the late 1800s to the mainstream features of the 1990s. Filled with powerful interviews from actors, producers, and screenwriters, this documentary talks about the cultural implications of lesbian and gay visibility in film and how it evolved over time. This film is appropriate for teens and adults.

After Stonewall – 1999

This documentary discusses the realities of gay and lesbian life and activism in the thirty years after the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. The film features interviews with key gay and lesbian activists, artists, musicians, and writers who were involved in the movement for equity. This film is appropriate for teens and adults.

Trembling before G-d – 2001

This ground breaking documentary follows the lives of a number of lesbian and gay traditonally observant Jews from both orthodox and hasidic communities. The documentary follows the lives and stories of these individuals as they try to find a way to balance their faith and identity as lesbian or gay in relation to a traditonal understanding of halacha and Jewish life.

This documentary is appropriate for youth groups as well as adults.

Keep Not Silent – 2005

This  documentary is an exploration of Jewish orthodox lesbian identity. It uses different interviews and first person narratives to share the experiences and lives of a number of different women. It is a very moving documentary that is appropriate for both teens and adults. 

Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School – 2005

This Keshet produced film, chronicles the story of one student’s courageous fight to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance at a Jewish high school and the transformative impact of her campaign on her entire community. This film is appropriate for both teens and adults. Visit https://www.keshetonline.org/hineini-coming-out-in-a-jewish-high-school/ to stream it for free!

Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria – 2010

Covering one of the first documented large-scale uprisings of trans and non-binary women against police brutuality, this documentary interviews historians and activists involved in the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in San Francisco in 1966. This film was also produced by Susan Stryker, a renowned trans historian, professor and author. This film is appropriate for both teens and adults.

Gen Silent – 2010

This documentary follows the lives of several LGBT seniors and their experience in the long-term health care system. It focuses on the challenge LGBT seniors face regarding whether or not to share their sexual orientation or gender identity with healthcare providers and administrators.

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP – 2012

This documentary focuses on the group ACT UP, which stands for the Aids Coalition To Unleash Power. This documentary was written by two well noted AIDS activists  in the group ACT UP during the onset of the epidemic. This documentary contains a lot of personal footage of actions and meetings from ACT UP, alongside interviews with people who were active in the group. This is a less polished movie compared to How to Survive a Plague, however the interviews give glimpses of the personal lives of the movement in a very meaningful and moving way. This is an important piece of LGBTQ+ history that could be used in youth and adult programming.   

How to Survive a Plague- 2012

This documentary focuses on the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and centers two activist groups, ACT UP and TAG. This documentary features original archival footage from national news media reports and protest actions from the 80s and 90s interspersed with interviews. This is a very moving documentary filled with voices of activists who died fighting against the AIDS epidemic. This documentary can be useful for younger generations to learn about an important time in LGBTQ history. 

A Secret Love – 2020

This Netflix documentary follows the true story of Terry and Pat, a lesbian couple in their 80s navigating coming out to their family and transitioning to a senior living facility. This is a great film to screen for folks working in senior services or anyone interested in learning about the experience of LGBT seniors in the US (and Canada) today.

Disclosure – 2020

This Netflix documentary discusses the visibility of transgender lives and stories in film from the 1880s to the present. Filled with interviews from famous transgender actors, directors and filmmakers who discuss the evolution of trans storylines and representation on screen. The film further investigates the transphobic tropes that have been a timeless part of Hollywood and traces the origins of these tropes from the beginning of cinematic history to present day feature films and television. This film is appropriate for teens and adults.  

Keshet

National Office

284 Amory Street
Boston, MA 02130
Phone: 617.524.9227

New York Office

368 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10001

San Francisco Office

2625 Alcatraz Ave
#275
Berkeley Ca, 94705

Chicago Office

4411 N Ravenswood Avenue
Suite 300
Chicago, IL 60640