The history of Pride Month can be traced to ‘The Stonewall Uprising’ in 1969 when a series of demonstrations by gay communities challenged a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, New York. This uprising is considered to be a turning point for LGBT rights. Today, Pride parades, film festivals, workshops, symposia, and concerts mark the LGBTQ Pride Month across the world. In India, every year since 2010, the annual KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival has proudly screened gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer films from around the world. This Pride Month, we also pick a few films and shows that you can watch right at home. These stories incorporate LGBTQ dilemmas, struggles, and triumphs seamlessly in varied themes and issues that all of us are facing today.
1. Moonlight: Celebrated as one of the best films of the 21st century, ‘Moonlight’ won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016 and was the first LGBTQ drama with an all-black cast to earn this honor. It also won two more awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins and based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play,’ In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the film explores multiple phases of the protagonist’s life from childhood to adulthood and portrays how he grapples with his sexuality and the abuse he has suffered. As he interacts with the people who pass through his life, he begins to clarify what he wants out of life and love. Starring Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali, the film struck a universal chord and went on to gross over $65 million worldwide. It is available on Amazon Prime.
2. Flee: This 90-minute, Oscar-nominated animated documentary by Danish filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen has been brought to India and is currently showing on Zee 5. Even though the larger framework of the story is the global refugee crisis triggered by war and ethnic violence, what we see is the human side of the staggering tragedy through the eyes of Amin, a young, gay Afghan boy. When Amin is forced to flee his country with his family, he also leaves his childhood behind along with the memories of pasting Jean-Claude Van Damme posters in his room. Though ‘Flee’ is about the pain of displacement, it is also about the fear and uncertainty that Amin feels as he begins to discover himself. Watch this stunning documentary to know if Amin will ever trust love again or if he will ever feel at home in his skin.
3. Sense 8: This Netflix series created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski weaves science fiction with human stories that are as diverse as the multinational ensemble cast. The show is about eight strangers who discover that they are “sensate” and are mentally and emotionally linked to one another. What follows is an interesting and enlightening exploration of questions pertaining to identity, politics, sexuality, and gender. The show’s overarching theme is that despite our differences, we are all interlinked and can resolve any conflict with empathy for one another. ‘Sense 8’ also won much acclaim for its representation of LGBTQ characters.
4. Guilty Minds: Created and directed by Shefali Bhushan and co-directed by Jayant Digambar Somalkar, ‘Guilty Minds’ on Netflix is a legal drama that tackles gender issues as well as social fault lines. The protagonist is an idealistic lawyer Kashaf Qazi (Shriya Pilgaonkar) who tries to get justice for the marginalized and the underserved while her equally upright friend and colleague, Vandana (Sugandha Garg) is openly gay and has a live-in relationship with her partner, Sunanda (Chitrangada Satarupa). This relationship is treated as a natural part of the unfolding story though there is one remarkable scene where Sunanda confronts her conservative mother for disrespecting her and her relationship with Vandana. The series just like ‘Fame Game’ on Netflix has gay characters who are not defined by their sexuality alone.
5. The Half of It: This feel-good, coming-of-age Netflix film was written and directed by Alice Wu and revolves around Ellie (Leah Lewis), an introverted teen in a small town who is weighed down by the loss of her mother and the grief of her father. She is largely friendless, is discovering that she is most likely gay, and also has a deep interest in art and writing. Her life soon becomes entangled with Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), a football jock, and Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), a beautiful girl he wants to woo. Ellie begins to write letters to Aster on his behalf but along the way develops feelings for her. What follows is a journey of self-discovery, friendship, freedom, and possibly, love.