SBS On Demand's Queer Screen Presents: Thinking Queer collection is an engaging slate of films and programs exploring the social, political and cultural issues facing the LGBTQI+ community. SBS On Demand has also curated its Rainbow Pride movie collection, which features more than 30 colourful and thought-provoking movies and shorts.
Here’s a dozen of our faves, with the full list below.
French director Robin Campillo’s beating heart tribute to ACT UP Paris, an impassioned HIV/AIDS activism group battling government and big pharma inaction in the late '80s/early '90s, transcends the tragedy we’re so used to seeing in this story. Partly inspired by Campillo's and co-writer Philippe Mangeot’s own time on the front line, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart and Arnaud Valois are dreamy as a serodiscordant couple falling in love alongside comrades played by Félix Maritaud and Adèle Haenel.
Before Mardi Gras wraps, we’ll know whether long-denied Glenn Close goes home with a Best Actress Oscar. In the meantime, you can see one of her near-misses here, returning to the role she played on stage 30 years earlier. Living as a man in order to work freely as a butler in a 19th-century Dublin hotel, Albert hovers in the background until meeting a similar, much bolder, spirit, as played by Janet McTeer. Also look out for Mia Wasikowska as a maid who catches Albert’s eye.
Nominated for the Teddy award at Berlin and the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, plus picking up a brace of gongs at queer festivals worldwide, South African director John Trengove’s startling debut feature examines masculinity through the prism of Xhosa initiation rights. Pop singer and activist Nakhane Touré is a revelation as a warehouse worker who acts as a guide each year in order to secretly visit married lover Vija (Bongile Mantsai). Their tryst is upended by the arrival of cocky young initiate Kwanda (newcomer Niza Jay.)
Speaking of revelations, Brit Harris Dickinson is remarkable as a closeted Brooklyn lad negotiating the unmarked boundaries of his sexuality in teasing cam shows with older men in writer/director Eliza Hittman’s electric sophomore feature. Smothered by the claustrophobia of a home where his working class father is slowly dying, Frankie spends his days cruising the boardwalks with his homophobic mates and retail worker Simone (Madeline Weinstein), escaping to the beachside beats by night.
Rebels on Pointe
Rebels on Pointe is the first film ever made about the world famous Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo. The New York based drag ballet company, commonly known as The Trocks, is made up of professional gay dancers, who all play both feminine and male roles in classical ballet pieces. The film goes behind-the-scenes into their professional and dramatic personal lives, revealing powerful dance performances in Montreal, Tokyo, Edinburgh and other locations around the world, including revived choreographies of a Russian era that expertly combine humour and impeccable technique. The dancers share stories about growing up, being gay and the many challenges and obstacles they faced to become professional ballerinas. Rebels on Pointe is a creative blend of gender bending expression, diversity and passion. A story which ultimately proves that a ballerina is not only a woman dancing but an act of revolution in a tutu.
Taking home both the Teddy award at the Berlinale and the Grand Jury Prize at LA Outfest, Brazilian directorial duo Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon also explore the online world in this hauntingly melancholic look at a young man with a troubled past who only comes alive in neon-paint daubed cam shows. When a competitor catches his eye just as the past catches up with him, the scene is set for one of the finest films of last year, with a pitch-perfect final shot.
Available on SBS On Demand after it screens on Viceland at 9.35pm pm Sunday 24 February.
Austrian writer/director Monja Art’s swooning debut feature is set in a boarding school in her hometown and blurs the lines between friendship and love, and sexual identities, in a believably teenage way. Starring a charismatic Elisabeth Wabitsch as Paula, secretly dreaming about best friend Charlotte (Anaelle Dézsy), she’s also the object of fascination for Tim (Alexander Wychodil) and Lilli (Alexandra Schmidt), with everyone at school having their hearts set on someone just out of reach.
Ana Kokkinos delivered one of the greatest Australian movies of all time in this red-hot take on Melbourne author Christos Tsiolkas’ incendiary debut novel Loaded. Heartbreak High alumni Alex Dimitriades just about set the screen alight as 19-year-old Ari, a lost soul navigating a maelstrom of raw sexuality, repression, drugs, clubs, immigrant identity and institutional violence. The legendary Paul Capsis is also brilliant as best mate Johnny, aka drag queen Tula.
Dubbed one of the nicest drag queens you’ll ever meet in recent hit The Coming Back Out Ball Movie, Miss Ellaneous – aka Iwaidja, Malak Malak, and Torres Strait Islander man Ben Graetz – is the brains behind Darwin’s Miss First Nations Drag Queen beauty pageant, alongside bestie Daniel Cunningham, aka Marzi Panne. Director Adrian Russell Wills captures the sequinned glory as six contestants compete for the crown in this gorgeous doco that puts love of country before catfights.
Available on SBS On Demand after it screens on NITV at 9pm Friday 1 March.
Returning to the breathtaking ballroom scene illuminated in Jennie Livingston’s seminal Paris is Burning, Swedish director Sara Jordenö shines a light on the distressingly similar trials faced by the predominantly African American, Latino, and trans kids keeping vogueing alive 25 years later, including the impact of HIV/AIDS and homelessness as well as homophobic and transphobic violence. The indomitable spirit on show in these wildly creative Kikis is incredible.
Available on SBS On Demand after it screens on NITV at 9.25pm Sunday 3 March.
A Womb of Their Own
Gender queer director Cyn Lubow explodes narrow-minded assumptions about the gender binary in this fascinating, upbeat look at the lives of six masculine-identifying people, including Lubow, who have grappled with pregnancy and how that affects their understanding of masc identity. A celebration of diversity, it ushers in a larger, more inclusive and loving look at life.
If you were fired up by Juno star Ellen Page’s take-no-prisoners appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert recently, you can catch up on her globe-hopping trip with best bud Ian Daniel as they visit LGBTIQ+ communities across the world. Traversing the US, they also stop over in Jamaica and Japan and head to Brazil during Carnival, with Page coming face-to-face with the country’s now President, the far-right homophobe Jair Bolsonaro. Prepare to be gobsmacked.
The Last Lesbian Bars
It’s oft-said GPS apps have killed the gay scene, but there are still far more spaces out there for gay men in the world’s major queer hot spots than there are similar haunts for lesbians. Le Tigre band member and Broadly host JD Samson goes on a road trip round the US, visiting the likes of San Fran, New York and New Orleans, trying to get to the bottom of why that might be in this snappy short.
Follow the author on Twitter: @SARussellwords
More for your Mardi gras viewing
Comedy-drama based on a true story set in the summer of 1984 – when Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is on strike. At the Gay Pride March in London, a group of gay and lesbian activists decides to raise money to support the families of the striking miners. But there is a problem - the union seems embarrassed to receive their support. However the activists are not deterred. They decide to ignore the union and go direct to the miners. They identify a mining village of Onllwyn, in the Dulais Valley in Wales, and later set off in a mini bus to make their donation in person. And so begins the extraordinary story of two seemingly alien communities who form a surprising and ultimately triumphant partnership.