If you want to be inspired by an out-there thinker, meet Finnish author Tove Jansson (played by Alma Pöysti). For a certain generation, the cute but kinda eerie creatures she created, the Moomins, were a beloved stop-motion oddity. Their recent rebirth in cartoon form has spread the love even further, but before all that they came to life in her gorgeously illustrated books during the 1940s.
A queer woman who proudly refused to conform, she formed a lifelong relationship with another woman, artist Tuulikki Pietilä (Joanna Haartti), and director Zaida Bergroth’s film celebrates their pioneering stance.
If you just want to let it all out, grab the hankies and dice into Cheng Yu-Chieh’s beautifully shot, bittersweet story set in Taiwan. Fraught family ties are at the heart of this tender film featuring award-winning performances from Mo Tzu-Yi and Chen Shu-Fang, as a piano teacher grieving the death of his boyfriend while looking after their son, and the dead man’s mother. All of which takes a turn for the complicated when her surviving son shows up fighting for custody of his nephew.
Wild Nights With Emily
If you want a literary romp, then Madeleine Olnek’s myth-busting hoot of a second look at the revered American poet is as form-smashing as Dickinson’s writing. Most definitely not the gently lush Terence Davies film starring Cynthia Nixon, it stars Molly Shannon in the title role and Susan Ziegler as the woman of her affections (and the subject of many, many words scrawled on paper). Even if you don’t think poetry is your thing, trust us and give this gloriously zany rom-com a go.
Summer of 85
If you need a little nostalgia-fix, then we can heartily recommend the pure joy (and oddity) of celebrated French director François Ozon’s sun-kissed bliss-out.A little bit Call Me By Your Name, it features amateur young sailors lost at sea in more ways than one who fall into each other’s arms in a French seaside town one glorious summer, but with tragedy, a complicated emotional three-way tug and some inexplicable plot twists. Which feels right for a film about young love exploding uncontrollably to the tune of The Cure, Bananarama and, err, Rod Stewart.
AIDS DIVA: The Legend of Connie Norman
If you want to know more about queer history, Dante Alencastre’s tribute to the legacy of indefatigable HIV-positive trans activist Connie Norman is a gem. With LGBTIQA+ stories often left off the official records and deliberately obscured – sometimes even within the community, where certain letters get more attention than others – it’s about time this legend got to grab the spotlight again, with a focus on her tireless push for queer rights, for lifesaving support during the HIV/AIDS crisis and as a proponent of non-binary identities.
If you just need to feel good about the world and your place in it, come to this doco for a wholesome time. Goodness knows society still heaps a bunch of stigma and bad old-fashioned shame on embracing your sexuality while simultaneously using sex to sell almost everything. Which is why this life-affirming doco by San Francisco-based filmmaker Alex Liu is a must-see, as he chats to a range of experts from researchers to philosophers about his own hang-ups, despite clearly enjoying the loving support of his family.
If you want a road movie that drives deep into the heartlands, kick Belgian filmmaker Laurent Micheli’s thoughtful film into gear. Starring impressive young trans actor Mya Bollaers she plays the title role, a young woman estranged from the father (Benoît Magimel) who rejected her, but who finds herself back in his company when they agree to unite to spread the ashes of her mother and his wife, and recovering lost fragments of their lost love for one another along the way.
Kiss Me Before It Blows Up
If you love the sweet spot where cross-cultural complexities come tumbling down, opt for this surprisingly sweet and fizzy lesbian love story set in Tel Aviv. Playgirl Shira (Moran Rosenblatt) gets herself in hot water when she accidentally proposes to her recently arrived German girlfriend Maria (Luise Wolfram), and that’s before their families clash. There’s also a really sweet subplot between Shira’s spiky grandmother and the Palestinian gardener she’s clearly hot for.
If you want the very definition of rock and roll, then check out the sexuality, race and gender barrier-smashing legends of queer Filipina American ’60s band Fanny. They were the first all-woman band to drop a major label album, so why aren’t they household names, given everything they achieved against all the odds? Talking heads discussing their legacy include Cherie Currie of The Runaways, Kate Pierson of The B52s and The Go-Go’s Kathy Valentine.
If you’re after a film that’s almost too hot to handle, we recommend this encore screening of the 2013 Stephan Lacant-directed classic served up nice and steamy. It explores the space where confusion erupts into eroticism when unexpected feelings for another person blow up everything you thought you knew. Set in a police training camp, it finds one promising cop fall head over heels with a male trainee unbeknownst to his pregnant girlfriend.
Stream the Queer Screen Film Festival 2021. Full details and links here.