Photography by Bestonkenya
Moonlight (2016) This award-winning, expectation-defying love letter to the ghetto held the industry’s precious little head down and made it listen. Filmed in decadent, fluorescent colors, the film is split into three parts of the main character’s life as he grows up in a tumultuous and painful home to falling in love and finally, getting loved as he has always deserved to be. It is devastating as it is triumphant, beautiful as it is hideous. Esteemed director Barry Jenkins said this film is about, “bringing art house to the hood.” You can stream this on Netflix. Pariah (2011) Similarly to Moonlight, Pariah is a punch to the chest. It is lovingly crafted. Each scene leaks with tenderness, even the ones that aren’t meant to. Focused on Alike, a young teenager who struggles with her sexual identity and familial difficulties, the film swells until the last crashing twenty minutes when everything comes to a head. Then finally, we can breathe. You can rent this on iTunes or Youtube. Paris is Burning (1990) Directed by Jennie Livingston, this lavish documentary gives an insight into the ball culture of New York City at the time. It shines light on the black and Latino LGBT communities during the so called, “Golden Age” of drag balls. In 2016, the film’s value was recognized when the Library of Congress selected to preserve it, claiming its cultural significance. If you haven’t seen it already, there’s nothing in your way now. You can stream this on Netflix. Pose (2018) Like Paris is Burning, this show is full of progression and does not turn an eye to the pain that the LGBT community has faced. With a star studded ensemble including Evan Peters and Billy Porter, to name a new, it has quickly become a fan favorite. It shines a light on ball culture, the AIDS pandemic and the detailed lives of these people society has shunned. You can stream this on Netflix. Tangerine (2015) Infamously filmed on an iPhone, this film follows the journey of a transgender sex worker named Sin-Dee Rella and her friend Alexandra as they spend Christmas Eve ruffling through the streets of a purple bellied Hollywood. It is brash and syrupy and wonderful. The film premiered at Sundance and won a series of awards. You can rent this on Amazon Prime.
This HBO film, starring the ever shiny Queen Latifah and directed by Dee Rees who brought us Pariah, focuses on the life of the acclaimed blues singer Bessie Smith. It had massive success, winning four Emmy awards. Unknowing to most, Smith was bisexual, an aspect that this film
looks at head on, tenderly and knowingly. It remains to be the most watched HBO original movie of all time.
You can stream this from Hulu.
In an effort to fit a black story into the elite shelf of white, gay coming of age stories, Patrik-Ian Polk released this small budget film only a couple of years before Moonlight would attempt to do the same thing. This film beautifully details the life of a black, gay teenager who lives in a small religious town in Mississippi. He tries to balance his faith and sexuality as well as the disappearance of his younger sister.
You can rent this from Amazon Prime.
Hailed as an unofficial sequel to Paris Is Burning, this documentary similarly takes place in New York City and focuses on the drag and voguish scene. It gives us a glimpse into the lives of
LGBT youth at the rise of the Black Lives Matters movement. It is, along with the others, an absolute must watch.
You can stream this from Hulu.