Documentaries about queer culture and gay life hit all the right notes. They are historically relevant, dramatic, and usually pretty fabulous.What better way to while away a weeknight than to cuddle up with baeand learn something about your and others’ worlds. Here’s alittle list, in no particular order. Discuss…
1. A Bigger Splash (1973)
This amazingly layered documentary about the artist David Hockney, and his chic clique in ’70s London and LA, is one of the few docs that’s as formally dynamic as its subject. His fantasy life of chillin’ with naked boys in aqua pools of desire might make you want to move to LA.
2. Unzipped (1995)
Unzipped is one of the first really great fashion docs. This mid-90s artifact follows the openly gay MTV-generation guru and fashion darling, Isaac Mizrahi, as he does his thing. It’s nonstop Kate, Cindy, Linda, and Naomi—with regular cameos from a full-bloom Sandra Bernhard—but also a sharp portrait of a queer artist being his truest self.
3. The Celluloid Closet (1995)
The Celluloid Closet is one of those “Queer Studies 101” films. It’s a reading of Hollywood through the veil of homophobia and how the image of the gay man has been so terribly misrepresented. The film is mind-blowing and will make you rethink every film you have ever seen from a new perspective.
4. Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
If you don’t know who Harvey Milk is, you need to learn. Again, mandatory viewing; he’s like the gay community’s Martin Luther King Jr. Harvey was not perfect, but he was brave, strong, and outspoken in a time when it was very dangerous to be so. And he paid the ultimate price.
5. How to Survive a Plague (2012)
If you were personally touched by the AIDS pandemic and the devastation it wrought, it’s inspiring to see a film like How to Survive a Plague. This film tells the story of TAG and ACT UP, and how they fought valiantly for all our lives.
6. Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell (2008)
Matt Wolf’s paean to seminal downtown NYC musician Arthur Russell single-handedly introduced his music to a new generation. Every non-basic gay has Russell’s “That’s Us: Wild Combination” on their afterparty “molly” repeat playlist. This film is why.
7. Tab Hunter Confidential (2015)
Tab Hunter was the ultimate ’50s boy-next-door icon. For a time, he was more famous than James Dean. He was also gay and tortured for it by Hollywood’s homophobe overlords. The film is an inside look at the darkness of closeted fame. Plus, he was just freakin’ slammin’.
8. God Loves Uganda(2013)
Roger Ross Williams’s film is a searing portrait of how Western Christian organizations exported their homophobic agenda to Uganda and helped turn homosexuality into a death sentence. In a time when gay concentration camps are emerging, this film is required viewing.
10. L’amour Fou (2010) / Yves Saint Laurent 5 Avenue Marceau 75116 Paris (2002)
A doubleheader! L’amour Fou is a personal portrait of Yves Saint Laurent and his longtime business partner/lover Pierre Berge. It’s an honest rendering of what it’s like to grow old with your true life-partner. The second part of the doubleheader is an amazing fly-on-the-wall doc that shadows Saint Laurent as he completes his final show. Yves Saint Laurent His Life and Times/5Avenue Marceau 75116 Parisis a Proustian meditation on how queer sensibilities can translate into epic beauty.
10 1/2. Dance or Die (2017)
Dance or Die is a short doc about Ahmad Joudeh, a Syrian who dances despite the bombs and bullets in his war-torn homeland. I don’t know what Ahmed’s sexuality is, but his experience is queer and very moving. Check it out on Youtube.