Queer Cinema Beyond Homosexuality
Queer cinema is a more nuanced topic than you might realise. In the context of pride month and with the momentum of mainstream gender movements going full steam, things can get a little out of hand, especially when words like 'feminism' and 'LGBTQ' are being thrown around without deep considerations for what equality means for the people really seeking it. While the gender equality movement has diverged into multiple ones, the core message should never be forgotten—and that is inclusivity. Pride is all about inclusivity and the acronym LGBTQ is an attempt to illustrate that. The 'Q' in LGBTQ standing for 'queer', the word fundamentally means anything out of the ordinary or revolving around a non-heteronormative way of life. For pride month, we have compiled a list of queer films that will get you out of the faulty cliché images of pride month.
1/7 Nosferatu (1922), FW Murnau
The oldest film on the list, German expressionism horror Nosferatu takes us back to the age of silent film and away from today's stereotypical queerness. The classic vampire film may not seem like anything related to pride, but it portrays queerness in its abjected nature back before the fight for equality. How Count Orlok seduces the male protagonist into his manor and sucks blood from the finger of the lad is uncomfortable in many ways. The scene so disturbing, especially to the crowd of the 1920s when homosexuality and queerness were still frowned upon amidst the emergence of the first wave women’s rights movement.
2/7 The Children’s Hour (1961), William Wyler
Moving up into the early 60s when homosexuality is beginning to be discussed, The Children’s Hour is about an accusation made by children against the relationship of their female school teachers. There is nothing quite as disheartening as the scene when Martha (played by Shirley MacLaine) jettisons a part of her sexual identity to protect her co-worker Karen (played by Audrey Hepburn). Accurately portraying the pain of a queer person in society, the 58-year-old film is based on an earlier play written in 1934 and incredibly still resonates in the contemporary.
3/7 Milk (2008), Gus Van Sant
Released in 2008, this instant classic is about the origin of modern-day pride. Directed by Gus Van Sant, Milk is a dramatised documentary on the life of Harvey Milk and the American fight for gender equality in the 70s. Packed with powerful scenes of love, friendship, hope, discrimination, homophobia and hatred, the piece of cinema is an important reminder of how many lives have been lost in the fight against stigma and extreme discrimination.
4/7 Happy Together (1997), Wong Kar Wai
Breaking away from documentaries, Happy Together by Wong Kar Wai is an all-time favourite for its striking cinematography. The film from Hong Kong tells of the disintegration of the relationship between Lai and Ho in a claustrophobic tone with twisted camera angles. A post-modern narrative ahead of its time, the story is extremely relevant to today's lovers and of any gender and sexual preference really.
5/7 Moonlight (2016), Barry Jenkins
Very much like Wong’s Happy Together, Barry Jenkins’ award-winning Moonlight casually yet stylishly tells a story beyond its time of the love life of two closeted individuals, Kevin and Chiron. As the childhood duo grows up, so does their relationship. The film presents the gay relationship in a rather progressive fashion, portraying it unlike a heterosexual one.
6/7 Hwal (2005), Kim Ki-Duk
Hwal or Bow by Kim Ki-Duk is a beautifully twisted story of a 60-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl. Set on a ship, the man and the girl live an idyllic life isolated from the rest of the world, on water. Counting the days towards their marriage, the old man takes care of the girl with love and respect until this equilibrium is intervened by a young outsider.
7/7 Tomboy (2011), Céline Sciamma
In this last movie, we see a young child stepping out of the embarrassment of her queer identity. The camera follows Laure as she moves into a new address in Paris. Wanting to join the other boys in their shenanigans, Laure hides her gender, fearing that the boys would not accept her. Throughout the 82 minutes of the film, we get to experience the struggle and embarrassment of a queer child.
See also: Explore Gender Beyond Skin With Norm Yip At River City Bangkok