LGBTQ + rights: seven key films

Over the past decade, LGBTQ + rights have made a major leap forward. And in large part the credit goes to the way in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and non-binary people were represented on the screen. There is no doubt in this important change that we are happy, but we must not forget the great struggle of previous generations.

From Victim by Basil Dearden a Boy Erased by Joel Edgerton, each of these films has had its own result: one has the merit of having increased the pressure for legislative reforms, the other has shed light on world gay cinema often overlooked. Here are seven of the LGBTQ + films that have had a strong social impact.

1. Victim (1961)

Victim, 1961, Sylvia Sims and Dirk Bogarde

© Photography Everett Collection

One of the most innovative gay themed films ever dates back to 1961, and is one of the most provocative and courageous. It is the thriller of the English director Basil Dearden that tells of Melville Farr (Dirk Bogarde), an undeclared homosexual lawyer, victim of murky blackmail by a gang that threatens to reveal his secret. Not only, Victim it was the first English film to use the word “homosexual” but the merit of having contributed to the approval of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 which decriminalized sexual acts between men in the UK. Predictably, the release of the film was the subject of heated discussions at the time, causing concern and censorship among the various review commissions. Bogarde, who was a big star at the time, was told that the film would ruin his career, but Victim showed that cinema has the power to facilitate long-term social changes.

2. Beautiful Thing (1996)

Beautiful Thing, 1996

© Photography Alamy

Originally intended for television, the English film Beautiful Thing, based on the homonymous theatrical comedy by Jonathan Harvey, received such a good reception that it was finally distributed in cinemas. This tender coming-of-age tale of two teenagers in a neighborhood of public housing in London it touched the hearts of the public from all over the world, both for the pleasantness of the narration and for the historical moment in which it was released. It was the period immediately following the Thatcher years, which had given so much importance to “traditional values” by opposing gay rights, and Beautiful Thing it was really the “beautiful thing” that many struggling LGBTQ + teenagers needed. Beyond the historical significance, the film still holds up today thanks to an exceptionally varied cast. It is not surprising that the British Film Institute included it on its list of the 30 best LGBT films ever.

3. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

Boys Dont Cry, 1999, Hilary Swank

© Photography Alamy

Even if he wasn’t a blockbuster, Boys Don’t Cry Kimberly Peirce was the first mainstream film to focus on the experience of a transgender. A practically unknown then Hilary Swank played the fictionalized version of Brandon Teena, a young transgender from Nebraska who actually lived and brutally raped and killed in 1993. Swank’s superb performance earned her recognition as Best Actress at the 2000 Oscars. The fact that the story was told largely from Teena’s perspective involved the audience, prompting those who knew nothing about transgender people to identify with her. Until then, transgender characters were mostly relegated to the margins of the big screen, typically portrayed as exuberant transvestites or vagabonds. Despite attracting a lot of criticism – representing an outcast group is a huge burden to bear, after all – the film represented a fundamental step, helping to spread knowledge of the transgender experience.

4. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Brokeback Mountain, 2005, Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger

© Photography Focus / Kobal / Shutterstock

A well-known director (Ang Lee), four Hollywood megastars (Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams), a wide distribution and a worldwide grossing of 178 million dollars have made Brokeback Mountain one of the most successful queer-themed films of all time. Based on the acclaimed Annie Proulx story published by the New Yorker in 1997, the adaptation for the big screen was met with equally enthusiasm, obtaining eight Oscar nominations and three wins (Best Non-Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Soundtrack). Although the romance between two cowboys sparked some controversy, it was one of the films of the year to receive the best reviews and, unlike many minor queer-themed films that preceded it, made the limelight rise difficulty being gay men in an intolerant society.

5. The life of Adele Chapters 1 and 2 (2013)

The life of Adele Chapter 1 & 2, 2013, Lea Seydoux

© Photography Everett Collection

Many LGBTQ + films that target widespread distribution tend, for sadly obvious reasons, to avoid love scenes that we might call “explicit”, instead presenting a purged version of same-sex relationships. This is not the case with the French Palme d’Or winner film Adele’s life – Chapters 1 and 2 by Abdellatif Kechiche. The story tells of the introverted Adele who begins to wonder about her sexuality after meeting one day on the street a blue-haired girl (Emma, ​​played by Lèa Seydoux) and falling in love with her instantly. The plot is quite simple and straightforward but striking the almost exhibitionist voracity with which the most carnal aspects of the relationship are shown – with close-ups, dry cuts and long voyeuristic shots. Though Adele ‘s life has been criticized for serving the ‘male gaze’, it also brought queer cinema into the here and now, abandoning the idea that gays represented on the screen must be de-sexualized to function on the market.

6. Out in the Dark (2013)

Out in the Dark, 2013, Nicholas Jacob and Michael Aloni

© Photography Collection Christophel / Alamy

The directorial debut of Israel’s Michael Mayer addresses forbidden love across political, ideological and geographic borders. Rejected by his deeply religious family in the West Bank, Palestinian university student Nimr seeks refuge in the relatively liberal Tel Aviv, where he falls in love with Roy, a career Jewish lawyer. Set during the deadlock in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and with a modern Romeo and Juliet ending, the film stages two lovers divided by forces greater than themselves. Although Mayer takes great care not to paint either side as the villain, there is no doubt that the suffering of gay Muslims rejected by families occupies the center stage. Out in the Dark highlights the harmful impact of fanaticism and tribalism on the marginalized, calling for greater acceptance within religious communities.

7. Boy Erased – Lives canceled (2018)

Boy Erased – Lives Erased, 2018, Nicole Kidman and Lucas Hedges

© Photography Everett Collection

Even today, consensual relationships between same-sex people are considered illegal in 73 jurisdictions around the world, with 12 of them providing capital punishment for gay or lesbian sex. These shocking statistics help explain why conversion therapy, a pseudoscientific practice that promises to change sexual orientation through various techniques (ranging from the administration of hormones and drugs to electroshock) is still considered a remedy for many individuals who struggle with their sexuality. Currently, this immoral and often extremely dangerous practice is legal in many countries, including a large portion of the United States and much of Europe. To shed some light on such practices is Boy Erased, a biographical film based on Garrard Conley’s memoir. Thanks to a cast made up of movie stars and critical acclaim, Boy Erased – Lives canceled he made the devastating effects of conversion therapy known to the public all over the world, concluding with some statistics that make you think during the closing credits.

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