It’s been 4 months but we’re still reeling from Moonlight’s Best Picture win at the 89th Academy Awards. Rarely do you see a queer film of color dominate the spotlight the way Moonlight did, depicting an unseen reality at the margins. The critical acclaim and widespread press it received provided an entry into the world of LGBTQ films that portray the lives of people of color, an extremely underrepresented area of society, and so we’re giving you a list of queer POC films to start your journey into lives real and beautiful yet scathingly kept below the surface.
The premise of Pariah is familiarly painful: the closeted homosexual who has accepted herself but has yet to come out to anyone, and the religious family who is somehow aware of the impending truth but refuses to acknowledge it out of fear and good old prejudice. The story, at its core, centers around 17-year old Alike (Adepero Oduye), a butch lesbian seeking to express her sexuality but at the same time goes to extreme lengths to repress it around her family and friends. She eventually finds solace and intimacy in Bina (Aasha Davis), the daughter of her mother’s friend, but in this film hearts are played with and broken, love is ignored, and the girl of your dreams brings nothing but hours upon hours of anguish. Dee Rees’ directorial debut is all too true, all too raw, and the ending, all too liberating to miss.
Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (2005)
Winning the Special Jury Prize at the first Cinemalaya independent film festival 12 years ago, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros is the crowd-pleaser turned Philippine gay classic of the 21st century. Directed by Auraeus Solito, the film depicts a charming innocence one can only find amongst the young and in love. Maxi (Nathan Lopez) develops a crush on the handsome policeman knocking at their door in pursuit of his family and their criminal activities as petty thieves. Maxi is effeminate, flamboyant, carefree, and accepted by his family, but this is a film set in the slums where violence and hate seem to be brewing at every corner, and Solito succesfully delivers the truth of the matter in his coming-of-age story: growing up isn’t easy when you’re a young, poor, queer kid in love.
Farewell My Concubine (1993)
Boasting a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the 66th Academy Awards, and a Palme d’Or win at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, Farewell My Concubine is both a historical film and a melodrama grounded in the intertwined story of two boys who meet as apprentices in the famed Peking Opera. The Chinese epic spanning 50 years, starring Leslie Cheung and Fengyi Zhang, has everything you need in a movie: grueling politics, history, action, a love triangle, and the pangs of unrequited love.
How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) (2015)
How to Win at Checkers is your usual coming-of-age story adorned with political and cultural weight that brings you access to the economic corruption, and social inequality of contemporary Thailand. Josh Kim’s film, based on Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s book, Sightseeing, is the heartwarming tale of two brothers trying to take care of each other in their own ways. Reminiscent of The Hunger Games’ premise, the story follows 11-year old Oat (Ingkarat Damrongsakkul) who attempts to save his older brother, Ek (Thira Chutikul) from Thailand’s mandatory military draft lottery. Perhaps what sets this apart from other queer coming-of-age stories is the fact that sexuality here barely scratches the conflict and, instead, only adds to the depiction of Kim’s characters.
Kiki takes the historical LGBT ballroom dance scene in New York and makes it known to the world. This eccentric and energetic documentary by Sara Jordeno introduces you to the African-American LGBT subculture that has provided a safe-space for queer youth to unapologetically be themselves. Built from first-hand interviews, and powerful dance-floor scenes, Kiki is a kaleidoscope wonderfully gathered to portray the joy in the spaces needed to battle the fragility of an often oppressed and repressed community.–PB&Jam