International Pride Month: Milk, Philadelphia and other films that highlight LGBT rights, struggles
June is celebrated as the International Pride Month because it marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (June 1969) — the iconic New York City uprising that played a tremendous role in the pioneering years of the queer rights moment.
And so, here are a few films that honour and celebrate the struggle of fighting for queer rights on the 48th anniversary of the riots:
Milk (2009) /The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
Gus Van Sant's critically acclaimed and internationally famous biopic about the life and times of the politician Harvey Milk is a definite must watch.
The film perfectly captures the gay rights movement in the 70s and serves as an effective primer for a political movement stressing the importance of forming coalitions. It also emphasised how LGBT interests fit in with the middle class ethos.
Sean Penn plays Milk as an impossible to dislike political activist and wins full points for his portrayal — but if you are looking for a historical accurate portrayal of Harvey Milk's life, then you are better of watching the 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk.
Philadelphia was the first mainstream, big budget film to cover the AIDS epidemic in America. Tom Hanks stars as a gay lawyer suing his old firm for wrongful termination and Denzel Washington as the lawyer who represents him.
The film is not only important because director Jonathan Demme's take on the subject matter is a unique one, but also because it summarises the struggle of an openly queer man in the height of the AIDS hysteria in America.
Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
Two young women fall in love as navigate the challenges of adulthood, love and loss in their lives.
This Palme D'or award winner is noteworthy because the story of the film is interesting, and the acting of the lead pair — Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, is brilliant.
But where the film lacks is in the fact that the lead characters are unnecessarily sexualised (the love scenes are in focus in the film) which might have been remedied if a more sensitive director, perhaps a woman, might have sat in the director's chair.
But the film is an important landmark in cinema because it is one of the few films on lesbians that have gained international prominence.
If you want a story about the struggle of two women in love, you are better off watching lesser known Deepa Mehta's Fire, which manages to sensitively depict the love story of two women.
Paris is Burning (1990)
This classic documentary has won major awards at Sundance and Berlin, and had crossed nearly $4 million at the box office when it was released.
The documentary talks about the underground ballroom culture of late 1980s New York City (and the many queer communities involved in it), and its success shone light on a collection of powerful, authentic voices that have never been given such a spotlight. It serves as an amazing guide to the young LGBT activists of the time.
Chronicles of Hari/Harikatha Prasanga (2015)
The documentary style fictional film tells the tale of an actor renowned for performing female roles.
Told through four interviews, the film touches on his strained relationship with his brother, a failed marriage, artistic struggles and his final decision to adopt a woman’s persona completely.
Hari's struggle to embrace his sexuality and way of dressing on-screen give you goosebumps.
Director Ananya Kasarvalli's debut film is one of the most sensitive portrayals of the cross dressers that has ever been seen on film, and is a must watch for the sensitive handling of the subject.