Once upon a time it seemed as if every lesbian film narrative followed a predictable plot: Insert two sexually naïve girls from different social classes, add a Victorian-era boarding school and a sprinkling of bi-curiosity. Fortunately, today’s lesbian films have come a long way since this snooze-fest formula.
From major award-winning pictures (Carol and The Danish Girl), to socially progressive documentaries (Mala Mala) LGBT films are garnering critical acclaim and five-star sex appeal. Even better, LGBT film festivals have sprouted in large and small cities across the country. The events are not only about the entertainment, but awesome opportunities for connecting with community.
“There is nothing like being in a primarily LGBTQ audience and laughing at the same jokes or crying at the same moments,” says Jennifer Kriz, board vice-chair of the MiFo (Miami-Fort Lauderdale) Film Festival. “Many films are followed by after-parties where you have an opportunity to meet up with friends and make new ones. It’s also a great conversation opener: What did you think of the film?” (By the way, Jennifer, who started with MiFo as a volunteer, has the horrible job of screening all the lesbian-themed films for the festival selection.)
From San Francisco’s Outfest to Pensacola’s Stamped, here’s my favorite five of the hottest girl-on-girl films that are collecting awards and stirring hot-girl crushes at festivals across the country.
Women Who Kill
Director: Ingrid Jungermann
Dark humor and horror mixed with a hipster Brooklyn hood, Women Who Kill is totally killing it on the festival circuit, picking up best feature awards from festivals such as Frameline and Tribeca.
This is no young-love covert crush-slush. Women Who Kill couldn’t be more out-there and of-the moment: It’s the story of ex-girlfriends, who just happen to be famous true-crime pod-casters. As they examine some most unusual mystery evidence, the cracks of their past relationship also come to the light. “I’ve watched this film twice and I hope we can screen it in Miami because I’d love to see it a third time. How many films can you say that about?“ says Kriz.
Director: Catherine Corsini
What’s a lesbian film festival without some steamy French celluloid? Some of Summertime parallels Blue is the Warmest Color, but this luscious love story has relocated to the French countryside, and plotted in the early 1970s. It’s a sultry story of young, provincial Delphine (23) and her evolving entanglement with older, intellectual Carole (35). “I felt like I needed to warn filmmakers at MiFo that there was lots of nudity,” says Kriz. “Of course I warned them because it increased ticket sales. But truly, they were not going to walk away disappointed with that film with or without the nudity.”
Director: Jonah Markowitz, Tracy Wares
This powerhouse documentary (an LA Film Festival winner) personifying the gay rights movement could not be timelier: Animals unfolds the fight of four lesbian politicians who strategically – and courageously – championed groundbreaking civil liberties legislation, from domestic partnership registration to anti-bullying in schools. The film is a must-watch-right-now for a potent reminder, as well as a prime motivator, for building upon their indefatigable battles for equality and human rights.
Director: Maura Anderson
Set in Oklahoma, Heartland is strongly resonating with film festivals in small cities across the country (Fresno, Portland, Pittsburgh, to name a few). This is not your stereotypical coming-out in tiny-town story. Instead, Heartland beats with humanity, and examines life – in its totality – is messy, and full of joy, grief, love, and strife. Gay identity is only one aspect of who we are, rather than the central focus that defines us.
First Girl I Loved
Director: Kerem Sanga
First love is oh-so-poignant, but never easy for any female, especially when you’re seventeen, and the object of your affection is the most popular girl in your Los Angeles high school.
“I don’t know what I’m doing either, okay?” says softball star Sasha to yearbook editor Anne. See their story – in all its sensitivity and sweetness – unfold. This winner of Sundance’s Audience Award reminds us that in spite of increasing equality rights, coming out is still complicated and clumsy. And all the more reason, why gathering together with lesbian community to witness this romance feels so much more meaningful than watching random entertainment at your local cinaplex.