With Colette, Girl, and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, this year cinema will be dominated by LGBTQ women
2018 was a remarkable year for queer cinema. We enjoyed an Oscar-winning trans narrative with A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantástica, which got its UK release in 2018); powerfully intimate documentaries about queerness past and present with McQueen, Studio 54, Susanne Bartsch: On Top and Shakedown; breakout indie hits with The Miseducation Of Cameron Post and Rafiki, and even blockbuster teen rom-coms with Love, Simon. (Recap our favourite films of last year here.)
So, how will 2019 fare? Will we continue to see LGBTQ narratives told with nuance, originality and authenticity – or will studios big and small move on to pastures new now that we’ve had our moment in the spotlight? Speaking to Emma Smart, a veteran of queer cinema who’s been programming BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival for more than a decade, we’ve pulled together a list of witty, dark and touching LGBTQ films that move beyond tried and tested stories of love, loss and coming out. Where previously cinematic behemoths like Call Me By Your Name and Moonlight have focused on the stories of gay men, this year looks poised to be the year of the queer woman. Here are Emma’s pick of docs, indie features, and big name blockbusters that you won’t want to miss.
Emma Smart: “Everyone’s talking about The Favourite, which is out in UK cinemas now. If you had a shelf of ‘queer DVDs’, where on that shelf would The Favourite sit? It’s not about discovering your sexuality, it’s not about people coming out, or any of the usual tropes – but it’s absolutely about female sexuality and the desires women have for each other. It’s a love story which is strange and twisted, and unlike anything else.”
CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
Emma Smart: “This is a remarkable film based on the incredible true story of celebrity biographer Lee Israel. A one time best-selling author, she sort of fell out of favour and began selling signed letters she’d received to make ends meet. When she realises there’s money to be made in selling these letters she starts forging them. She’s this incredible butch dyke, played by Melissa McCarthy, who lives alone with her cats, which is not something you get to see in a blockbuster like this. The thing I find particularly refreshing about Can You Ever Forgive Me? is that her queerness isn’t a plot point, it’s just there.
“Whilst it’s undoubtedly funny in places, don’t expect this to be your typical Melissa McCarthy comedy. If it were any other year (one where the competition isn’t so tough!) I’d be predicting she’d win an armful of awards for her performance.”
Emma Smart: “This remarkable documentary which chronicles the lives of trans people working in the US military won the audience award at last year’s SXSW Festival. I’m not exactly sure of the timeframe, but given how dishearteningly turbulent the politics around trans issues has been of late, it’ll no doubt make for powerful and riveting viewing. It follows the lives of several personnel who are currently serving in an institution which is the largest employer of trans people in the whole of the United States.”
Emma Smart: “This story of the queer literary icon Colette (author of the Claudine novels, who was nominated for the Nobel prize for literature) might not be for everyone. Another period piece, set at the dawn of the 20th Century, the story can be a little leisurely in places, but it’s an important narrative about a queer icon. Directed by queer filmmaker Wash Westmoreland, the production included numerous LGBT people on both sides of the camera.”
Emma Smart: “This will be an interesting one given we’ve recently had an incredible and very different look inside gay conversion camps with The Miseducation Of Cameron Post. Both based on books, I’m curious to see how this film will say something different. It’s undeniably got an incredible cast, I just hope that it conveys the right message.”
Emma Smart: “As with Boy Erased, I think this film may divide the community. There continues to be a lot of meaningful and necessary discussion about who gets to tell our stories (particularly when it comes to trans stories, which really haven’t been told as often as they should) and this film will definitely form part of that debate. It’s been nominated for a Golden Globe, won the Caméra d’Or for best first feature film and Queer Palm at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and is receiving strong reviews from critics.
“As with A Fantastic Woman, it could be thought of as a creative collaboration between cis director and trans muse. In an interview last month, Nora Monsecour (whose real-life story was the basis for the film) said, ‘My story is not a fantasy of the cis director. Lara’s story is my story.’”
BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival Returns To The BFI Southbank 21st to 31st March 2019.