Category: lesbian movies

NOVEMBER 30: I Can’t Think Straight premieres …

365daysoflesbians:

On this day in 2008, the lesbian
film I Can’t Think Straight finally received a wide release in the United
States after initially hitting select theater on November 21, 2008.

The British drama is based on the
book of the same name and was directed by Shamim Sarif, a notable writer and director
of South Asian and South African descent who is openly lesbian and has
extensively explored gender and sexuality in her work. I Can’t Think Straight
follows the story of a Palestinian woman named Tala who is living in London and
engaged to a man named Hani. While Tala’s wealthy family eagerly make
arrangements for her wedding to take place in their home country of Jordan,
Tala is slowly coming to the realization that she likes women. The object of
her affection is the girlfriend of her best friend, a British Indian Muslim
woman named Leyla. As Tala’s wedding day approached, both women struggle with
their family’s cultural expectations and their secret relationship.

Upon its release in 2008, I Can’t
Think Straight
was awarded by many LGBT film festivals from around the world
such as the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the Melbourne Queer Film
Festival, and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Lesbian publication sites such
as AfterEllen and Autostraddle delivered lackluster but ultimately endearing
reviews of the film. Autostraddle dubs it “another film that lesbians either
love or hate, but this is the film that opened our hearts forever to…Tala and
Leyla, two women from very different backgrounds that fall in love on accident.”

-LC

Happy 10th anniversary to this sweet lesbian rom-com!

NOVEMBER 15: Baka Bukas is released (2016)

365daysoflesbians:

On this day in 2016, the film Baka Bukas was first released in the Philippines
at the Cinema One Originals Film Festival. Baka
Bukas
was the directorial debut of lesbian filmmaker Samantha Lee, who says
that the film is “the story of what happens when you fall in love with your
best friend.”

For its English-language distribution, the title of the film was changed to Maybe Tomorrow (x).

Inspired by the director’s own
life experiences, Baka Bukas follows
two girls named Alex and Jess. Alex, played by Jasmine Curtis-Smith, is a semi-out
lesbian with a successful career as a social media manager. Despite having a
family who embraces her sexuality, the one person she has yet to come out
to is her best friend Jess – played by Louise delos Reyes. Things become
complicated when Jess learns that not only is she the only person who Alex is
not out of the closet to, but that Alex is also secretly in love with her.
Unlike other films which deal with friendships between lesbians and straight
girls, such as Almost Adults, Baka Bukas follows Jess on her own journey
of sexual self-discovery as she realizes that she too may have been in love
with Alex this whole time.

The film became a finalist at the
Cinema One Originals Film Festival and won the overall awards for Audience
Choice, Best Actress for Jasmine Curtis-Smith, and Best Sound. It eventually
got a wide release in March on 2017. In an interview with CNN Philippines, director
Samantha Lee said, “I conceptualized the film because I wanted to see a
representation of the LGBT community that went beyond the portrayals that are
shown in mainstream media. The characters in this film are fully flawed
functional human beings. They are more than just an accessory to the plot, they
are the plot.”

-LC

NOVEMBER 8: Blue is the Warmest Colour is rele…

365daysoflesbians:

The film Blue is the Warmest Colour was first released in the United Kingdom
on this day in 2013. After becoming the breakout film of the 2013 Cannes Film
Festival, lesbians everywhere waited with baited breath for the roll out of Blue is the Warmest Colour into theaters.

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Blue is the Warmest Colour was first released in its home country of France on October 9, 2013 (x).

Based on Julie Maroh’s 2010
graphic novel of the same name, Blue is the Warmest Colour tells the story of a
15-year-old girl named Adèle whose life gets turned upside down when she meets
and falls in love with a blue-haired girl named Emma. After bumping into Emma
on the street one day, Adèle becomes fixated on her and daydreams of her at school, home, and even during sex with her boyfriend. While partying at a gay club with her friends, Adèle
wanders off and finds herself at a lesbian bar and in the presence of the
mysterious blue-haired girl once again. The two enter
into an exciting new relationship, but one that eventually becomes a rocky adult
relationship as Adèle and Emma struggle with keeping the spark between them throughout
the years.

image

In May of 2013, Blue is the Warmest Colour unanimously
won the Palme d’Or and the FIPRESCI
Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It also made history by its two lead
actresses – Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos – being just the second and
third actresses to ever be awarded the Palme
d’Or
. Although the film came into great controversy for its use of the
straight male gaze and the sexually exploitative working conditions established
by director Abdellatif Kechiche, it still placed at the top of many
publications “Best of 2013” lists and was even nominated for a BAFTA and Golden
Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In spite of its flaws both in front
of and behind the camera, the success of Blue
is the Warmest Colour
has afforded it a place in lesbian culture and film
history.  

-LC

NOVEMBER 5: Fire is released (1998)

365daysoflesbians:

On this day in 1998, the movie Fire was first released in India. The
first of Deepa Mehta’s Elements
trilogy and loosely based on Ismat Chughtai’s 1942 story, The Quilt, it was one of the very first mainstream Bollywood movies
to feature a same-gender love story.

Although it first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 1996, Fire was not shown in India until November 5, 1998 (x).

Starring Nandita Das and Shabana
Azmi, the movie features two young women named Radha and Sita who fall into a
relationship with each other after becoming dissatisfied with their husbands.
The two women are sisters-in-laws who live together in a traditional joint-living
situation. Sita’s husband feels no love for her and constantly leaves her alone while he is out with his younger girlfriend, while Radha’s husband
has come under the influence of a local preacher who has convinced him that
sexual desire should be suppressed. Continually abandoned sexually and
emotionally by their husbands, Radha and Sita begin an affair. The titular
scene of the film is shown in the climax of the story when Radha announces to
her husband that she plans to move out and start a home with Sita and her sari
catches fire.

Fire became a controversial film upon its release. Although it
passed India’s censorship laws, more than 200 people stormed a theater in
suburban Mumbai in a December 2nd  riot and burned Fire movie posters. Multiple
protests of the film rippled out from that and other theaters were forced to
cancel their showing of the film. However, despite the riots and protests, many
Indian film critics and gay activists praised the film for its “gutsy”
portrayal of love between two women. Today in 2017, Fire is seen as one of the tenets of lesbian culture in India and
remains a mainstay in the hearts of Indian women who love women.

-LC

OCTOBER 29: The Journey is released (2004)

365daysoflesbians:

On this day in 2004, the Malayalam
film The Journey (സഞ്ചാരം/Sancharram) was first released in the United States. The Journey was the first film about
lesbian identity to come out of India since the 1996’s Fire.  

Written and directed by Ligy J.
Pullappally, the film follows the story of two girls falling in love in the
South Indian state of Kerala. Kiran and Delilah come from a Hindu family and a
Catholic family, respectively, but their friendship has managed to last them
from childhood into teenage-hood despite the stigma of their rural hometown. When
a boy named Rajan realizes he has a crush on Delilah, he asks Kiran to help him
write love letters to her. In the process of writing sweet nothings to her
closest friend, Kiran discovers that she too has a crush on Delilah.

Although The Journey is often compared to Fire, Pullappally  has spoken
at length about how important it was for her to depict lesbians living in rural
India rather than in the urban centers and how the lack of resources and
isolation that comes along with rural living can impact LGBT youth. Upon its
release across the American festival circuit, The Journey was awarded several awards and even the Chicago Award for best film. It continues to be praised and replayed today in 2017 for its subtle handling of adolescent sexuality and lesbian identity
within Keralan culture.  

-LC

OCTOBER 21: The Handmaiden is released (2016)

365daysoflesbians:

Happy one year anniversary of the release of the film The Handmaiden, which first premiered in the U.S. on this day in 2016. Based
on Sarah Waters’s iconic lesbian novel Fingersmith,
the film adapts the story of a pickpocket falling in love with an heiress in
Victorian England into Victorian-era South Korea.

Similar to other iconic LGBT films such as Carol or Moonlight, The Handmaiden has grown its very own pocket of devoted lesbian fandom ever since its release last year (x).

In the film, Kim Min-hee and Kim
Tae-ri star as the protagonists, the wealthy Lady Izumi Hideko and trained pickpocket Sook-hee.
Sook-hee comes from a long line of con artists and the tale picks up with her in the midst of her latest project working for a man named Count Fujiwara. With Sook-hee posing as a maid,
Fujiwara invades the home of the single and rich Lady Izumi with the intent of
marrying her, committing her to an asylum, and then divvying up what’s left of
her fortune between himself and Sook-hee. The plan seems airtight until
Sook-hee and Izumi sleep together one night and begin to feel themselves
falling in love.

The Handmaiden made its first big splash after premiering at the
2016 Cannes Film Festival and making headlines as the new thrilling South
Korean lesbian drama that everyone couldn’t wait to get their hands on. At
Cannes, Ryu Seong-hee won the Vulcan Award of the Technical Artist for her art
direction. It was also shown at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and
was lauded as one of the top 15 best films to be shown there. To date, it is
the highest grossing film director Park Chan-wook has ever released in the
United States.

-LC

SEPTEMBER 20: Mädchen in Uniform is released (…

365daysoflesbians:

On this day in 1931, the film Mädchen in Uniform (Girls in Uniform)
was released in the United States. Directed by the out lesbian director
Leontine Sagan, Mädchen in Uniform is
an lesbian cult classic.

An original poster for the film as it was displayed in 1931 shows Manuela (center)  gazing longingly at her teacher,

Fräulein von Bernburg (left) (x). 

The film follows a 14-year-old girl named Manuela
von Meinhardis, whose mother and father have both died and whose aunt has stuffed her away in an all-girls boarding school. The conditions at the
school are brutal and the headmistress forbids any kindness or leisure be allowed to the students. Manuela’s only brightness in life is Fräulein von Bernburg, the only compassionate teacher at the school. One day when Manuela arrives to
class in old, torn clothes, von Bernburg pulls her aside  and offers
to let her borrow some of her own clothes. In a narrative turn that changed the history of film, Manuela bursts into tears and admits
that she is in love with her, to which von Bernburg replies that they can never
be. The rest of the film follows Manuela as she deals with the secrecy of her
love for von Bernburg coupled with her classmates’ secret plot to report their
headmistress’s brutal behavior to the authorities.

Mädchen in Uniform’s love plot between two women is not told
through code or subtext, but is an essential part of the film’s story, and for
this reason the film has often been dubbed the very first lesbian movie of the
western world. Berlin, Germany of the 1930s was thriving with an LGBT nightclub
scene, where the film made a huge splash. Although it was almost banned in the
United States for a goodnight kissing scene between the two protagonists, First
Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s highly positive review of the film was able to turn the
public opinion (#lesbiansolidarity). Later on when the Nazis began to rise to
power, instead of destroying the film as they did to many LGBT-themed
works of art, the ending of the film was rather altered to seem like a pro-Nazi
production. In 1958,when  the film was re-made under the same title, the plot followed the
ending of the original 1931 production.

-LC

SEPTEMBER 5: All Cheerleaders Die is released …

365daysoflesbians:

Looking for a corny, gay horror movie to start you Halloween
season off early? The recent remake of the 2001 film All
Cheerleaders Die
, which was premiered at the Toronto International
Film Festival on this day in 2013, is exactly what you’ve been searching for.

Like Jennifer’s Body
before it, All Cheerleaders Die
is not exactly a lesbian cinematic classic, but we the wlw community have claimed it for our own anyways. Played by Caitlin Stasy, the story follows a young girl
named Maddie who is making a documentary about high school hierarchy. Her favorite
subject to follow around is head cheerleader and prettiest girl in the school,
Alexis, but what you might think is going to be your standard loner pines after
the Queen Bee type situation is quickly halted when Alexis is killed in a
cheerleading stunt gone wrong. With the first death of the movie down, what
follows is more death, witchcraft, a zombie-like resurrection, and a singular
sex scene between Maddie and cheerleader Tracy that makes the whole thing
worthwhile.

With a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, All Cheerleaders Die has its merits. In a genre entirely
centered on male audiences, the movie refreshingly focuses on an all-female cast
of characters and refuses to play the sex scene between Maddie and Tracy as nothing
more than fetishistic eye-candy as one might expect. With so little LGBT
representation t in the horror genre at all, All Cheerleaders Must Die is a fun, honest push in the right direction.

-LC

AUGUST 16: Reaching for the Moon is released (…

365daysoflesbians:

Based on the book Rare
and Commonplace Flowers
(Flores Raras e Banalíssimas) by Carmem Lucia de
Oliveira, the biopic Reaching for the
Moon
(Flores Raras) was first released in its home country of Brazil on
this day in 2013.

Set in the city of Petrópolis and spanning throughout the
1950s and 1960s, the film tells the real life love story of American poet
Elizabeth Bishop (who we wished a happy birthday back in February!) and a
Brazilian architect named Lota de Macedo Soares. The story starts off with Elizabeth Bishop, a once great
poet in a creative slump, arriving in Brazil in 1951. Played by Miranda Otto, she
is hoping that a retreat into nature will not only revive her writing ability
but will also save her from an increasing dependence on alcohol. Surprising to anyone but the audience, it’s actually a friend of a friend named Lota, played by Glória Pires, who
truly pulls Elizabeth back into the world of the living. 

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Instead of the
intended stay of three weeks, Elizabeth ends up staying, loving, and living
with Lota for 15 years. The film itself is sprawling and extends beyond the
easy label of “lesbian romance movie;” from dealing with the trappings of
literary stardom, to internalized homophobia, to both women’s experience of the
1964 Brazilian military coup, by the end of the movie the audience
has truly witnessed the scope of Elizabeth and Lota’s 16 year long relationship and has seen their lives and identities been woven together. With the infamously dismal and amateur-ish
reputation of most lesbian films, the beautiful cinematography, score, and
tight writing of Reaching for the Moon
is something to be cherished.

-LC

AUGUST 11: But I’m A Cheerleader is released (…

365daysoflesbians:

On this day in 2000, the movie But I’m A Cheerleader was first released in the United States. Now
a cult classic, the movie tells the story of a young lesbian named Megan who is
sent off to a gay rehabilitation camp – or “homosexuals anonymous” as her
mother puts it. Despite the seemingly heavy subject material, But I’m A Cheerleader pokes fun at the concept of “praying the gay away” and is more therapeutic than any ex-gay camp could ever hope to be. 

The first film from director Jamie Babbit, But I’m A Cheerleader is most remembered
for its genuine humor, John Waters camp-style sets, and the unforgettable chemistry between
its two leads – Clea Duvall and faux-lesbian icon Natasha Lyonne. Played by
Lyonne, the movie starts off by following Megan through her daily routine of
gazing longingly at the cut-out photos of models in her locker, cringing
through makeout sessions with her boyfriend, and, of course, attending
cheerleading practice. The movie’s titular line is spoken when Megan is
bombarded one day by her friends and family in a pseudo-intervention/reverse
coming out; to the accusation that she’s a lesbian, she can only respond “…but
I’m a cheerleader!” However, despite the obvious oxymoron of a lesbian cheerleader,
Megan’s parents insist that she drop everything and pack her bags for the
ex-gay camp called True Directions.

At True Directions, the boys fix cars, play football, and
chop firewood while the girls swaddle baby dolls, wear skirts, and
vacuum monochrome carpets in hopes to become True Men™

and True Women™

. Amongst all the madness, Megan finally
realizes that not only is she in fact a lesbian, but that she also kind of has
a thing for Graham, the only other girl at camp who is unconvinced by the
ridiculousness of these activities. With the stage set and the characters
positioned exactly how you want them to be, the story plays out in a perfectly
fluffy, romcom rhythm. The two girls fall in love by sneaking out late at night
to nearby gay bars and rolling their eyes at various True Directions tasks,
only to ditch the camp’s “graduation ceremony” and officially run off
into the sunset together at the movie’s climax. It’s not in spite of, but rather, because of this expected story line that LGBT folk have kept this movie on repeat well into the
21st century; rarely are lesbians given the type of aesthetically
pleasing, teeny-bopper story that But I’m
a Cheerleader
has to offer, and much less one that continues to make you laugh
with each and every re-watch.

-LC