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LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH RECOMMENDATIONS

Written by Alex Gilston

February marks LGBTQ+ History Month in the UK, a time to reflect on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, and the history of gay rights and civil rights movements in the community. As a way to celebrate what follows is a few recommendations of queer cinema and TV to watch over the next few weeks.

PRIDE

Where to watch: Rent

There is something uniquely special about a film that can spread collective joy whilst simultaneously educating you on a big historical event, and Pride is one of those rare gems. Pride tells the story of a group of Gay and Lesbian activists in 1984 who find unlikely allies in the National Union of Mine Workers who are currently on strike. Their eventual camaraderie and togetherness could lead to the change both groups are looking for. If you had a list of “Quintessential British Cinema” Pride wouldn’t look out of place in the high echelons of it. Aside from it being an inspirational story, it’s positive representation of the community is a breath of fresh air.


MOONLIGHT

Where to watch: Rent

Barry Jenkins’ three act odyssey, Moonlight, chronicles the life of Chiron. Moonlight will go down as a defining film in the history of LGBTQ+ cinema becoming the first film with queer representation to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Jenkins manages to tow the line between grounded realism, and the moments where life can feel like a fairytale. Moonlight also goes a long way to naturally capture what it’s like to grow up being both black and gay, and Chiron’s journey is a direct product of his sexuality and more importantly whether he learns to accept that or not. It’s a beautiful piece of filmmaking all stitched together by Nicholas Brittel’s phenomenal score. If you haven’t seen it, it should be as close to the top of your watchlist as possible.


SWEETHEART

Where to watch: Rent

Writer-director Marley Morrison came through last year with her feature length debut Sweetheart. If you grew up in the UK, the summer caravan holiday was either a source of unbridled joy or major anxiety, and for the main character in Morrison’s coming-of-age dramedy it’s the latter. AJ doesn’t want to be on this holiday, she’s much more enamoured with the idea of knitting jumpers for elephants in Asia. But what, at first, feels like the biggest waste of time soon turns into a formative week of her life when she meets Isla. The unapologetic British-ness of Sweetheart is it’s biggest strength, and being able to reminisce about these kinds of holidays is really fun. One of the main threads of the film is AJ wrestling with her sexuality, and Morrison does a wonderful job of portraying it. Framing it in the context of a holiday setting where it’s exciting to be whoever you want to be, because chances are you’ll never see the people you meet again, but also showing how important these interactions can be when you are growing up is just brilliant. Sweetheart is also a great example of how having queer people telling queer stories makes for a more authentic final piece of cinema.


BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Where to watch: Netflix

Not much can be said about Brokeback Mountain that hasn’t already, but Ang Lee’s heartbreaking epic will forever be lauded for being so far ahead of its time and being a true pioneer for further gay representation in mainstream Hollywood. The story of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist is etched into queer history, two male lovers separated by societal norms and a time period where their choices weren’t accepted. The immortal words “I wish I knew how to quit you” will be as heartbreaking as the first time, every time they’re uttered by Jake Gyllenhaal. If you have already seen Brokeback I implore you to seek out an interview Heath Ledger did on the film’s press tour in which he shuts down a bigoted journalist so eloquently. Amazing stuff.


Pose

Where to watch: Netflix

If you want a slice of American Queer history look no further than Ryan Murphy’s award winning TV show Pose. Set in 1980s-1990s America, Pose follows New York City’s African-American and Latino LGBTQ underground ball culture. Every single character is fully realised and there are rich stories from all corners of the queer community told throughout the three season run. As well as being stellar television Pose made huge steps for representation by having the largest cast of trans actors in TV history. The show also deals with the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis with some of the main characters in the show having the disease. The demonisation of HIV and AIDS has become less of an issue in recent years and it can be partly attributed to shows like Pose that deal in the facts instead of the scaremongering.


It's a Sin

Where to watch: All 4

Russell T Davies’ drama It’s A Sin took the UK and the world by storm at the height of the second lockdown in January last year, and chances are you’ve already seen it. But if you haven’t it’s definitely about time you did. The show is set in the UK as AIDS and HIV starts to spread around and it follows a group of gay men and their friends as they experience the eventual crisis that is caused by the handling of the disease. Davies is known best for his high standard of writing but here it’s impeccable. A raw and heartbreaking exploration of the AIDS crisis in the UK and the injustice that the Gay community faced in the wake of it. Although it’s a tough watch it is required viewing and akin to Pose goes a long way to end the continuing demonisation of the disease pointed specifically towards gay men.

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