First things first: a reminder that it is two weeks until the early bird deadline, which is the 30th of June. We accept films of all genres and documentaries from girls and women between the ages of 10 and 25. Get your films in one and all!
And now, on to the main event. To celebrate Pride, this week a few members of the HERIFF team would like to tell you about some of our favourite LGBT+ feature films, short films and documentaries:
Jamie’s pick: My favourite would be Carol (2015), directed by Todd Haynes. It is a gorgeously shot fairytale set in 1950’s New York telling the tale of two women who fall in love when it is forbidden for them to do so. Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett are a pitch perfect on-screen matchup.
Ollie: My favourite LGBT+ film is Rosie Westhoff’s 2019 short film Treacle.
Cáit’s pick: My favourite LGBT+ film is My Own Private Idaho (1991), directed by American queer cinema icon Gus Van Sant. Its subversion of traditional narrative structure and Shakespeare’s plays, its quirky vignettes of life on the streets, its soundtrack, and its dreamy editing style make it timeless. Its core performances by River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves are central to the film’s emotional impact. It’s a must-watch.
Katie’s pick: As a big gay fan of big gay films, I’ve witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly of LGBT+ representations in film. I love the rom-com vibes of Saving Face and Imagine Me & You, and the kitchy, campy vibes of D.E.B.S and But I’m a Cheerleader, but my favourite LGBT+ film has to harken back to my truest love, Katharine Hepburn in some classic Hollywood cinema.
Sylvia Scarlett (1935) is one of the most groundbreaking, subversive pieces of Hollywood cinema I have ever seen. It was released under heavy censorship, during the Production Code era, so none of its queer, genderbending themes were allowed to be named, but to me, that very lack of labels makes it a particularly interesting representations of queerness in that it doesn’t limit or define it. That’s not to say that labels and overt, open representation aren’t important or necessary in some cases, but in the context of Sylvia Scarlett, there is a certain freedom that comes from an unnamed expression.
The title character was assigned female at birth, but poses as a boy called Sylvester for the duration of the film. Male and female characters alike are attracted to Sylvia/Sylvester’s androgynous presentation, leaving the ambiguity of gender and sexuality up to interpretation by the audience. The openly gay director of the film, George Cukor, understood the queerness of this film, and is quoted as saying, “I wasn’t going to be so goddamned daring after that. I thought, ‘Well, kiddo, don’t you break all sorts of new paths, you just watch it’.”
It brings me a special kind of joy to see representations of LGBT+ people from that long ago; the shared history, the roots in the past, and the chance to see a powerful woman dressed in a suit!
Tosin’s pick: In a Heartbeat (2017) by Beth David & Esteban Bravo. This short film is set in a private school so right off the bat, I can relate to its characters. Also it’s animated! Adopting a pixar-esque style the film makes it clear to the audience that ‘being queer’ isn’t a choice or some perverse, adults only xxx thing that children should be protected from, but rather a way of being that LGBT+ or LGBT+ aligned kids can relate to.
Laoise’s pick: The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan, 2018) is an adaption of Emily M. Danforth’s absolutely brilliant YA novel of the same title. Chloe Grace Moretz stars as the title character, a teenage girl who is caught with her best friend and sent away to a conversion camp. The genuine anguish and pain of not being allowed to be who you are mixed with teenage angst makes for a moving and, at times, harrowing tale.
Rebecca’s pick: My favourite LGBT+ movie is The Hours (2002). Split into three parts, it focuses on three women of different generations whose lives are connected by Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel ‘Mrs Dalloway’. Nicole Kidman is striking as Woolf, but for me Julianne Moore’s performance is outstanding and incredibly moving.
Alannah Rose’s pick: My favourite bit of LGBT+ cinema is a documentary called We Were Here (2010). The documentary shows four gay men, and one nurse who lived in San Francisco during the HIV/AIDs epidemic in the 80’s. They tell their stories about losing people they loved and cared for during this dark time for the Queer Community. It’s really interesting to see how each of them handled the crisis, with one man becoming a counsellor for gay men with the virus, another who owned a corner flower shop supplied free flowers to many funerals, and the nurse talking about how the virus was handled in the hospital and the many clinical trials she worked on. It is a beautiful and emotional piece of cinema that honours those who were lost to this horrible virus and the struggles that people living with HIV today are facing.