Our Pride March is almost here and while we have contemporary shows and movies to educate us about the resistance and the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, documentaries are another way to gain awareness about their historical plight. These films are especially important as they tell the stories of the real people behind the community’s ongoing fight for equality, and remind us why their names should not be forgotten.
Here are some you can check out:
The Rejected (1961)
Released in 1961, The Rejected is the first-ever television documentary about homosexuality which aired on American television. It sought to combat homophobia and toxic belief surrounding the community by presenting facts and insights from the likes of Kinsey, Freud, and gay men themselves. “We have brought you some of the facts and presented some of the arguments,” the narration goes. “Perhaps with more facts and more arguments will come the beginning of understanding.”
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
Marsha P. Johnson is remembered for her pivotal role at the Stonewall riots. In July 1992, shortly after that year’s pride parade, her body was found floating in the Hudson River. While the cops ruled her death as a suicide, many were not convinced. By exploring questions surrounding her death, Oscar-nominated director David France also highlights the significance of the gay rights movement.
Trembling Before G-d (2001)
Religion has always proven to be a subject of contention when discussing queerness. For members of the LGBTQ+ community with a conservative background, this is an especially tough issue to navigate. This acclaimed documentary focuses on that struggle by looking at Jewish LGBTQ+ persons and how they deal with their seemingly contradictory identities.
Paris is Burning (1990)
An absolute must-watch, Paris Is Burning gives us a peak of the drag community in New York City in the mid-to-late 1980’s. By combining interviews and performances at the iconic drag ball during that time, lauded filmmaker Jennie effectively portrays how class and race deeply affect discussions on sexuality.
Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community (1984)
As its name suggests, this Emmy-winning documentary tackles the state of the marginalized community pre-Stonewall, in effect showing us how activism worked in that era. It features lesser known historical events which led to Stonewall, as well as interviews by the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Audre Lorde.
In 2016, Bemz Benedito was the head of LADLAD, then the world’s only LGBT political party. Wanting to take the fight of the community in the country further, she ran for Congress. To pursue her dreams of becoming the first transgender woman to have a seat in the Philippine Congress, Bemz and her team of queer political warriors turned to unlikely places, such as small-town hair salons and regional beauty pageants. This internationally acclaimed documentary is a moving look at the leaders’ fight to prove to the Filipino electorate that LGBTQ+ rights need to be taken seriously. Think Knock Down the House.
Call Her Ganda (2018)
One of the most shocking news that rocked the LGBTQ+ community was the tragic death of Filipina trans woman Jennifer Laude. Brutally murdered by a U.S. Marine, her case caught the attention of the whole country and even abroad. Three women were especially invested in the case: Activist attorney, Virgie Suarez; transgender journalist, Meredith Talusan; and Jennifer’s mother, Julita “Nanay” Laude—the insights of whom were focused on in this award-winning documentary by JP Raval.