Fräulein is more than happy to provide our top queer cinema viewing for this essential month.
10 LGBTQI+ Documentaries to watch during Pride Month
Due to the recent events of police brutality and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it’s also an opportunity to explore and talk about queer history. We have to thank this rich culture and all the rights we currently have to black and brown transgender women and drag queens, who actively fought to stand up against the norms of the society. Pride month should be a celebration about what we have accomplished so far, but also be the biggest, loudest and most colorful sign of visibility.
Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, we’re unable to celebrate our much-beloved Pride in 2020 but Fräulein has got you covered: here are the moving, fun, and teaching LGBTQI+ documentaries you should definitely watch during Pride Month.
Paris Is Burning (1990)
A pop-culture phenomenon. Jennie Livingston focussed in this documentary on the ballroom culture of New Yorks lower east side. A movie that not only showed the life of queer individuals but queer, black, and Asian individuals. Throughout the documentary, the personality of each protagonist shines through and it shows how many of these wonderful gay men and trans women we have now lost, including one of the main personalities Venus Xtravaganza, a sex worker that got stabbed by a client of hers. Ryan Murphy showcased these storylines in the second season of FX’s “Pose”. Paris Is Burning showed a mainstream audience what throwing shade, reading, and voguing were and created an essential fundament for today’s pop culture, which is getting celebrated in shows such as “RuPaul’s Drag Race”.
It’s Not The Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But The Society In Which He Lives (1971)
The title says it all. A German documentary by director Rosa von Praunheim from the early ’70s that showcases the life of gay men in a heteronormative society. In this, he focusses as well on a comparison of the „flamboyant faggot“ to the straight acting, a topic that is still relevant in the gay scene.
Tongues Untied (1989)
When dance, music, performance, and queerness comes into one documentary. Marlon Riggs “Tongues Untied” is an incredibly touching movie focussing on sexual and racial differences in the United States, the experience black, gay men make and white gay racism, as well the Aids crisis.
Fun fact: George W. Bush got criticized by Pat Buchanan for allowing this film to be made as it glorifies homosexuality.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
People were shocked when the dead body of transgender activist and drag queen Marsha P. Johnson was found next to the piers of the Hudson River in 1992. To this day, the NYPD still declared her death as an act of suicide, but people refuse to believe this theory. This documentary investigates into Marsha’s death while celebrating her life and revisits the Stonewall riots, in which she played an essential role.
L World Mississippi: Hate the Sin (2014)
While most LGBTQI+ documentaries rather focus on gay men and trans women, Ilene Chaikens L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin features a series of several interviews with lesbian couples in the south of the U.S.and their struggles against religious leaders, bigotry and homophobia. And yes, its from the 21st century.
Before Stonewall (1984)
The prior mentioned Stonewall Riot was an essential part of queer liberation. The 1984 American documentary film “Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community” by director Greta Schiller focusses about the LGBTQI+ Community before the 1969 Stonewall riots.
Matt Shephard is a Friend of Mine (2013)
Matthew Wayne Shepard was a student just like any other. But he was gay. One night he got beaten up and tortured near Laramie and left to die in 1998. Six days later he died by the severe head injuries that his murderer Aaron McKinney and Russel Henderson gave him. Both were later arrested and sentenced to jail for first-degree murder. This 2014 documentary reflects on the incident and on Matt Shepards Life. A must watch for everyone that thinks homophobia is not real.
We Were Here (2010)
This 2010 documentary by David Weissmann focusses on the story of four gay men and a lesbian woman, who all has been living through the AIDS crisis. In the year of 1997, over 15.000 people died in San Francisco only (!) by the virus. AIDS hit especially gay men very hard and this documentary showcases how lesbians donated blood for their gay friends & family and helped with organizations to take care of the sick. A good documentary to show how this important part of queer history affected the scene back then and how the community helped each other
Party Monster (1998)
A documentary or more a shockumentary? Sheila Neins & Robin Gutch’s „Party Monster“ talks about the rise of the New York Club Kid Scene with Legendary Michael Alig as the main protagonist. Alig moved to New York from his small hometown and quickly got bored with the cities party scene. Soon he decided to change things up: It was the birth of the iconic club kids, such as James St. James & Amanda Lepore. This “shockumentary” also weights in into Aligs murder on his club friend and drug dealer Andre „Angel“ Melendez.
A Secret Love (2020)
This documentary is about the story of a lesbian forbidden love that comes to light after 70 years. Pat Henschel and Terry Donahue had their coming out at the age of 80. These two women were exposed to the pressure of our society after a decades-long hide-and-seek game. Still, this documentary shows you an incredibly romantic love story, which almost makes you forget how difficult life for the LGBTQI+ community was during the second World War.
Text: Fabio Pace