27th July 2017 marks 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act was passed in England and Wales. One of the first major legislative victories for LGBT activists, the bill decriminalised same-sex acts between men in private. Though it would be more than a decade before the law was ratified in Scotland (1980) and Northern Ireland (1982) – and whilst it made no mention of lesbian, bisexual or transgender rights – it was a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBT equality.
While the V&A has already honoured the landmark anniversary with a Friday Late Takeover and Queer British Art 1861-1967 continues at Tate Britain until October, in east London The Barge House is marking the occasion with new film festival Some Like It Queer. Curated by Fabulous Ferdi, the festival launches tonight and will run every Tuesday for the next five weeks; to highlight the occasion, we’ve handpicked seven of our top LGBT flicks.
Shot entirely on an iPhone 5s with plot cues taken from the lives of its central stars, trans actresses Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Sin-Dee) and Mya Taylor (Alexandra) – whom director Sean Baker met whilst exploring LA’s informal red-light district – Tangerine is an acerbic comedy about infidelity and the fluidity of gender identity. Having been released from jail on Christmas Eve, Sin-Dee soon learns that her pimp boyfriend has been cheating on her with a cisgender “fish”. What follows is an equal parts irreverent and intelligent exploration of the seedy underbelly of LA’s sun-drenched sex-trade, as the two protagonists struggle to understand each other and their place in society.
Paris Is Burning
Directed by Jennie Livingston, this 90s documentary about black, Latino, gay and transgender ball culture in New York is an absolute essential for anyone interested in queer culture. Shade. Realness. Voguing: Paris Is Burning was the first feature length film to document them all. As intimate as it is powerful, this documentary celebrates a multitude of gay subcultures and non-binary gender identities. Winning at more than 16 film festivals when it was first released – amongst them Sundance and the Berlinale – the film was recently recognised by the National Film Registry for its “cultural, historic [and] aesthetic importance.”
Whilst most films about HIV and AIDS tell stories of death and decline, Tom E. Brown’s first feature, Pushing Dead, uses comedy rather than sentimentality to tackle the issue. Following Dan (James Roday), a struggling writer who’s been HIV positive for 20+ years, Pushing Dead recontextualises a life spent living with AIDS as a moving, light-hearted journey of acceptance. Layered with almost Wes Anderson-like details – including a projectile barrage of D-batteries, an oddly omnipresent little girl and a creepy, child-like, stuffed monkey – the film tells the love story of one man and his disease.
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s radical novel The Price Of Salt, Todd Haynes’ masterful adaptation clocked up six Academy Award nominations, five Golden Globe nominations, and nine BAFTA nominations, and for good reason. Thick with tension, forbidden longing and the constant threat of discovery, Carol depicts the struggle of a 1950s housewife who desperately and defiantly pushes back against the sexual and social norms of her day.
Blue is the Warmest Colour
Winner of the 2013 Cannes Palme d’Or – the first time the award had ever been presented to the director and to both lead actresses (Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos) – this coming of age drama grapples with friendship, sexuality and homophobia. Not without its critics – the BFI’s Sophie Mayer described it “as with many male fantasies of lesbianism, the film centres on the erotic success and affective failures of relations between women” – the film nonetheless renders a story of self-discovery and first love in vivid detail.
One of the most controversial releases of its day when it debuted in 1961, Victim is a dark and gripping thriller that offers both an unflinching exploration of the taboos of homosexuality, and a compelling portrait of blackmail and paranoia. At times earnest, stereotyped and sentimental about gay men, the film nonetheless spotlights the challenges facing those who live without any kind of legal protection for their identity or sexuality.
One of the many reasons Pariah is so remarkable, is that it tells the touching coming-out story of a virginal 17-year-old girl without the saccharine nostalgia typical of most coming-of-age films. Semi-autobiographical, the film draws from the experiences of writer and director, Dee Rees as she re-imagines how her life might have been if she’d acknowledged her sexuality 10 years younger (Rees came out at 27). As Adam Sewer wrote for Mother Jones shortly after the film’s release, it’s “as much a film about growing up as it is about growing up as a lesbian in Brooklyn.”