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The 10 Best LGBT Documentaries of 2015 (USA)

 

Best of Enemies

This documentary covers the legendary televised 1968 political debates between liberal Gore Vidaland conservative William F. Buckley Jr., in which the two intellectuals didn’t always keep their rhetoric lofty — at one point Vidal called Buckley a “pro-crypto-Nazi” and Buckley responded by calling Vidal “queer” and threatening to punch him. Directed by Morgan Neville (an Oscar-winner forTwenty Feet From Stardom) and Robert Gordon, Best of Enemies is not only a master class in debate, it’s also one of the most entertaining films of the year.

Tig

In 2012, Tig Notaro made comic history when she joked about her cancer onstage at a club in Los Angeles. The heartfelt routine launched her into fame and the national spotlight. And Tig, a new Netflix movie, chronicles the aftermath, a story of a lesbian comedian and cancer survivor who is searching for meaning, love, and perhaps parenthood through surrogacy.

Tab Hunter Confidential

Hollywood’s all-American boy Tab Hunter is setting the record straight (by coming out as gay) in his new documentary, Tab Hunter Confidential. Based on his 2005 autobiography of the same title, the film by Jeffrey Schwarz (Vito, I Am Divine) explores how Hunter dealt with decades in the closet while making dozens of films and delves into as personal details like his love affair with Anthony Perkins. Sadly, Hunter’s struggle remains relevant in Tinseltown, as A-list stars are still grappling with the love that dare not speak its name. Perhaps they will find some courage from watching this insightful documentary.

Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story 

For nearly 30 years, Chuck Holmes’s Falcon Studios was the world’s largest producer of gay pornography, altering the way a generation of gay men saw themselves and their sexuality. Thestory of its founder is told in this insightful new documentary, Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story,directed by Mike Stabile. Through archival footage and interviews with porn stars, as well as Holmes’s long-term partner, Steven Scarborough, the documentary shows how one man achieved wealth and fame by reinventing how mainstream culture perceived gay men, while navigating the dangerous early days of the adult film industry.

RELATED | An Oral History of Early Gay Porn

Do I Sound Gay?

Is there such a thing as “gay voice”? That’s what David Thorpe’s documentary explores, with input from celebs including Margaret Cho, Tim Gunn, Don Lemon, Dan Savage, David Sedaris, and George Takei. A hit at film festivals and with critics, Do I Sound Gay? features conversations with linguists, family members, and strangers on the street to weigh in about one of the most personal and perhaps revealing parts of ourselves: our voice.

Larry Kramer in Love and Anger 

It’s been a landmark year for Larry Kramer. The HIV activist turned 80, released the book The American People: Volume 1, and was nominated for a slew of awards for the recent HBO adaptation of his 1985 play The Normal Heart. And now he’s the subject of a new documentary, Larry Kramer in Love and Anger, which documents his fight as a firebrand activist to make AIDS a national issue and change public health policy. Don’t miss the making of one of the LGBT community’s great activists.

The Glamour & The Squalor

Directed by Marq Evans, The Glamour & The Squalor tells the story of the legendary rock radio DJ Marco Collins. As a gatekeeper and great lover of music, Collins helped make the careers of bands like Weezer, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam by broadcasting their songs to the public. But in his private life, the Seattle-based figure was battling demons and struggling to keep his sexuality out of the public eye. Archival footage, animated re-creations, and interviews with artists like Carrie Brownstein, Macklemore, and Collins himself help tell one of the year’s most glam tales.

The Royal Road

One of the year’s most poetic documentaries comes from filmmaker Jenni Olson, who in addition to her cinematic contributions, is known as one of the founders of PlanetOut.com. Olson calls her new film, The Royal Road, “a cinematic essay in defense of remembering” as well as “a primer on the Spanish colonization of California and the Mexican American War alongside intimate reflections on nostalgia, butch identity, the pursuit of unavailable women and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo — all against a contemplative backdrop of 16mm urban California landscapes, and featuring a voice-over cameo by Tony Kushner.” What’s not to love?

Mala Mala

Mala Mala is a timely new documentary that shows portraits of the transgender community in Puerto Rico. A hairstylist, a prostitute, an activist, and a RuPaul’s Drag Race star (April Carrion) are several of the subjects interviewed by directors Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, who capture the discrimination and hardship that can come from one’s journey to selfhood.

A Sinner in Mecca

A gay Muslim filmmaker comes to term with his sexuality and his religion in A Sinner in Mecca. In this documentary, Parvez Sharma embarks on a hajj (a pilgrimage to Mecca) in Saudi Arabia, where it is not only a crime to be gay, it’s punishable by death. It is also forbidden to film in Mecca, making Sharma’s film an unprecedented view into a place and culture off-limits to most of the world

The 10 Best LGBT Films of 2015

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i-am-michael-x750_2It’s the holiday season, which means it’s time to carol. Or at least, it’s time to sing our praises forCarol and the other LGBT cinematic standouts of the year.

Making a film with LGBT characters and themes is no easy task, even in a post–marriage equality country like the United States. Yet around the world, brave filmmakers continue to try, and they often succeed in creating stories that increase visibility and move the cultural needle for the LGBT community.

The Advocate salutes all these filmmakers and would like to give special recognition to several standout productions. Thus, here is a list of 10 of our favorite films from 2015 (in no specific order).

The New Girlfriend
Channeling Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock, The New Girlfriend is a gender-bending new film by François Ozon (Swimming Pool). Set in France, the plot centers on the relationship between the characters of Claire and David. David’s wife (and Claire’s best friend) has recently died, and her passing makes David come to terms with their gender identity. Claire is at first alarmed, and then is seduced by “The New Girlfriend” in her life, as were we.

Carol
It’s New York in the 1950s. You’re working as a shopgirl in a department store, when suddenly, you lock eyes with a gorgeous older woman in a fur coat. You sell her a train set, but she forgets her gloves on the counter. Perhaps you should give her a call. So begins the electrifying romance between Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol (Cate Blanchett), women who develop a friendship and then something far deeper in a time when same-sex love still dared not speak its name. Directed by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven), the film was adapted for the screen by Phyllis Nagy from The Price of Salt, a 1952 romance novel written by Patricia Highsmith under the cover of a pen name. At the time, the story was highly unconventional, as its lesbian characters did not die or “meet the right man” or join a convent. It took decades before the world was ready for a film adaptation. At long last, audiences can see Carol in all its glory.

The Danish Girl
Eddie Redmayne delivers an astounding performance as 20th-century transgender icon Lili Elbe in director Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl. An adaptation of a book of the same name by David Ebershoff, the film follows the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener (played by Alicia Vikander) as their relationship evolves while the two navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey to discover her true self. “I hope others are as inspired by Lili’s story as I was and continue to be,” Redmayne told The Advocate. “At a time in which there were no predecessors that she knew of, she still had the absolute knowledge in herself of who she was and what she needed to do to liberate herself. The fact that she valued life and authenticity enough to give her everything and anything, I think that is extraordinary.”

Grandma
Grandma marks Lily Tomlin’s first lead role in a film in nearly three decades, which is one reason to celebrate. Another reason? The lesbian actress portrays a lesbian character — Ellie, a poet whose partner has recently died. The film, which has generated much-deserved acclaim for Tomlin’s performance, centers on the relationship between Ellie and her granddaughter as they go on a road trip together and confront their pain. What are grandmas for, darlin’?

Tangerine
Tangerine is one of the year’s most acclaimed independent darlings. Directed by Sean S. Baker and Chris Bergoch, the film follows the story of two friends, who also happen to be transgender sex workers, Alexandra and Sin-Dee Rella, across the backdrop of the saturated streets of Hollywood. And it’s shot entirely on an iPhone 5s. The story goes: Sin-Dee, after being released from prison, discovers that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with a white cisgender woman. Furious, she goes on a hunt for revenge and solicits Alexandra as an accomplice. And in the process, the friends show the audience a side of Los Angeles that is rarely seen in media. Nominated for four Spirit Awards, including acting nods for its leads, Tangerine is a must-see film.

Bessie
Queen Latifah stars as legendary bisexual blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO film Bessie. Directed by out filmmaker Dee Rees (Pariah), the production charts Smith’s rise to fame through the 1920s and ’30s as one of the greatest talents of her time. It also stars Oscar winner Mo’Nique as her mentor (and rumored lover) Ma Rainey. Ooh-la-la! Don’t miss this Emmy Award–winning production.

I Am Michael
Michael Glatze, a former LGBT activist, ignited a firestorm of controversy when he publicly renounced his homosexuality and became an antigay born-again Christian. This “ex-gay” story is told cinematically in I Am Michael by writer and director Justin Kelly, who based the screenplay on a New York Times Magazine article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis. Glatze himselfpraised lead actor James Franco, whose performance he credits with being part of his own “gigantic healing process.” The rest of the cast, including Zachary Quinto as his ex-partner, do a wonderful job of telling a story that could have been quite judgmental but succeeds in recounting one man’s struggle for identity.

Eisenstein in Guanajuato
Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, known for his 1925 classic Battleship Potemkin, is depicted in new, sensual light in the international biopic Eisenstein in Guanajuato. The film, which shows Eisenstein’s relationship with another man during his time in Mexico, has incited controversy in Eisenstein’s native Russia, which considers him a national hero from its cultural past. Directed by British filmmaker Peter Greenaway, Eisenstein in Guanajuato has been attacked for its accuracy (or lack thereof), but it has already proved itself a relevant, passionate, and much-needed film in a world that still tries to erase LGBT history.

Boy Meets Girl
Boy Meets Girl is a romantic comedy that crosses gender lines and is set (and was filmed in) rural Kentucky. The plot centers around four characters in a small town: a transgender woman (Michelle Hendley), a barista who aspires to be a fashion designer, a car mechanic (Michael Welch), a Southern belle (Alexandra Turshen), and a military veteran. As each of them grapples with love and identity, Boy Meets Girl itself becomes a quiet revolution in how a film with LGBT characters can be made.

Girlhood
French filmmaker Céline Sciamma is known for her coming-of-age classics like Water Lilies andTomboy, which explore how young people grapple with sexuality and gender identity. Her latest film, the acclaimed Girlhood, is no less revolutionary in its portrayal of a group of African-French teens navigating race, gender, class, and their own sexual identities in the Paris suburbs

 

Editorial

 

Now this list is what The Advocate has published, the question for our readers which LGBT film do they think is the best in 2015 – please let us know by writing in on our comments board and we will gather your votes and publish them.

 

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