I always thought that the most exciting queer cinema had already happened. As a college student, I threw myself into discovering LGBTQ films from the past, from ‘60s Japanese oddities and Derek Jarman's queer Brit punk, to the radical work of ‘90s ‘New Queer Cinema’ directors like Isaac Julien and Gregg Araki. I even signed up for evening classes to learn German as a way to better understand the work of auteurs Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Rosa Von Praunheim. In the process, I began to feel that modern day films didn’t measure up. I’d loved Brokeback Mountain as a teenager, but I started to wonder whether Hollywood had done its gay narrative a disservice by casting two cis straight male leads.
Ten years later, our rightfully increasingly attuned sense of identity politics means that things are slowly getting better — crucially, at a mainstream as well at an indie level. Webseries and shortform music videos have enabled new voices to reach a wide audience, in addition to arthouse movies and cable TV. This year there’s been less need to look to the past for exciting and diverse LGBTQ representation. When I watch the following pieces of work I know that the best isn’t in the past, but is yet to come.
Andrew Ahn’s beautiful film shows a young Korean man in L.A. trying to reconcile his sexuality with the cultural mores of his traditional family. Not the first coming of age film I’ve seen set at the sauna — that was the 1975 musical romp Saturday Night at the Baths — but perhaps the most quietly powerful.
A bluesy, belting anthem of defiance, written as “a statement to a world that said I shouldn’t exist.” Black trans lives matter.
When I get home from work and my brain’s still buzzing, webseries are often as far as my attention span stretches. This one’s a Laverne Cox/Janet Mock-endorsed six-parter about transwomen’s everyday lives, dating, and friendship. Feels refreshingly real (credit that to the trans cast and crew). Should have won the Emmy.
I’d been waiting for Josiah Wise’s debut Tri Angle Records release to drop for months, and boy did he deliver. “four ethers” is a song about pain and anguish, but with directors Timothy Saccenti & Alvin Cruz’s elemental rendering, watching the video feels like his emotional release can move mountains.
This tightly-wound season stayed with me all year. It opens with the allegation of male rape at an elite school, and unpacks the complexities of male teen sexuality over 10 episodes with an intensity that doesn't let up.
Transparent, "The Open Road"
Any time Christine and the Queens performed live
And made me feel like I could do her dance moves, too.
Kiddy Smile, “Let A Bitch Know”
Fell in love with this guy after his storming DJ set at a FADER show this summer. In this video the electronic artist travels to the Parisian inner-city banlieus with a crew of vogue dancers to take back the tough streets where he was raised.