No offense to the Saoirse Ronan simps in the house but it’s time we retire the sullen white period pieces of lesbian romance. What women who love women (WLW) want is for people of color (POC) to get representation in flicks that don’t celebrate huge age gaps or fetishize WLW narratives. I’m (not so) sorry but it’s time for you to pack it up, “Carol” and friends.
While not as talked about on film Twitter™, there are actually a number of WLW films that fit our bill. We’ve rounded up a list of our favorites so open that Letteroxd app and add these queer gems on your to-watch list.
“Si Chedeng at si Apple”
In 2018, directors Rae Red and Fatrick Tabada gave us a WLW black comedy starring veteran actresses Gloria Diaz and Elizabeth Oropesa. The Cinema One film follows the story of 66-year-old Chedeng who decides to come out after her husband’s death and her best friend, 63-year-old Apple, who beheads her cheating live-in partner. Together, they set out to find Chedeng’s ex-girlfriend.
“Si Chedeng at si Apple” competed in various film festivals abroad. In an interview with The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Red shared, “We thought that the film’s humor and sensibilities were exclusive to the Filipino audience, yet these festivals show that it also has the ability to be universal and transcend foreign taste.”
Tabada added, “We’re thankful that these two lolas are traveling around the globe. I hope their journey lives on, and may they continue to behead patriarchy.” Sounds like something right up our alley.
“Blue Gate Crossing”
Taiwanese New Wave-influenced film “Blue Gate Crossing” is director Yee Chin-yen’s “is-she-or-isn’t-she gay comedy focused on a Taiwanese teen, the boy she might like, and the girl she may love.” That’s one heck of a logline for a coming-of-age love triangle narrative that The New York Times says “inevitably reminds you of the life-and-death gravity of your own crushes at an age when the world seemed to depend on the bestowal or withholding of a chaste peck on the lips.”
It’s moody but honest and simple—which is exactly how most high school romances are. Be prepared to unearth (slightly cringe-y) memories when you give it a try.
Before directing “The Half of It,” Alice Wu’s most popular film was romantic dramedy “Saving Face” which starred Michelle Krusiec, Lynn Chen and Joan Chen. It’s about how a Chinese-American lesbian and her pregnant traditionalist mother come to terms with how their romantic relationships go against what is expected of them. It tackles the same themes as “Crazy Rich Asians” without the crazy rich bit.
Wu revealed that it was inspired by her own coming out story to her middle-aged mom. The New York Times calling it “the first movie wholly about Chinese-Americans bankrolled by Hollywood since Disney released ‘The Joy Luck Club’” cements its spot as a queer classic.
Writer-director Dee Rees’ debut film “Pariah” is a gripping tale about a 17-year-old Black lesbian who’s trying to embrace her identity and find love. Lead actress Adepero Oduye recites a poem in the trailer with the lines, “I am broken open. Breaking is freeing. Broken is freedom. I am not broken. I am free.” It’s a powerful story and one of the few (if not the only) movies with a butch lesbian as the protagonist.
Its vibrant cinematography was lauded during its premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. If you’re the type who checks out critic reviews before deciding to watch a movie, well this one is certified fresh at 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
“How I Felt When I Saw That Girl”
Here’s something you can find on Netflix. Shelly Chopra Dhar’s “How I Felt When I Saw That Girl” (Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga) is Bollywood’s first lesbian romcom. Released a few months after the Indian Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality, it follows the story of Sweety Chaudhary who is struggling to come out to her family determined to marry her off.
Despite the serious themes, the movie is still as charming and fun as any Bollywood film. The Hollywood Reporter noted that even though it employed the straight-guy-as-savior trope, it’s “practically defiant in its happy ending.”
If you know of other WLW films with POC leads, please send recommendations our way.
Photo screengrab from the “Si Chedeng at si Apple” trailer