Screen Share | Queer films snubbed from glory

With Pride Month in the rear view, take a moment for these truly extraordinary stories from recent queer cinema

Updated - July 05, 2024 05:59 pm IST

Published - July 05, 2024 04:57 pm IST

A still from Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘Monster’

A still from Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘Monster’

Now that Pride Month has wrapped up, corporate giants have shed their yassified rainbow exteriors and reverted to their standard-issue selves. For them, Pride has always been another trend to exploit for a quick buck, a fleeting act of tokenism. So, in the spirit of authenticity, I thought it’d be fitting to recommend some truly unforgettable queer films that seemed to have been forgotten somewhere along the line, on the cusp of glory.

In many ways, Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee feels as if Persepolis and Waltz with Bashir had a brilliant, queer baby. It’s a one-of-a kind animated documentary that chronicles the harrowing journey of Amin Nawabi, a pseudonym for a gay Afghan refugee. What really made Flee so special was the animation’s ability to release Amin of his inhibitions and allow him to stay true to his shifting identities, in his own words. The film made history as the first to be nominated under Animated Feature, Documentary Feature as well as the International Feature categories.

A still from Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s ‘Flee’

A still from Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s ‘Flee’

It’s the most curious thing how memory plays such an integral part in shaping one’s identity; the same idea won Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda the Queer Palme at Cannes last year for his psychological thriller, Monster. The film revolves around a mother who notices her son Minato’s disturbing behaviour and learns he claims to have been hit by his teacher. A tale of misperceptions and misunderstandings, all’s not what it seems in Kore-eda’s poignant journey of self-discovery.

Historically, the Queer Palme has spotlighted a number of beautiful pieces of storytelling that Monster followed in the footsteps of. However, winners of the prize seem periodically cursed with being snubbed at the Academy Awards. Take, for instance, Celine Sciamma’s seminal lesbian romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire. The forbidden period love story was arguably the most gorgeous-looking works of cinema the year had to offer. Alas, the French Film Commision had their sights set elsewhere (Ladj Ly’s Les Miserables) to offer Sciamma a much-deserved shot at Oscar glory.

A still from ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’

A still from ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’

The pattern persisted with Pakistan’s official submission for the Oscars 2023 — Saim Sadiq’s groundbreaking Joyland. The film tells the story of Haider, who becomes infatuated with Biba, a trans dancer, with the constrictions of patriarchy taking hold. It’s a brave piece of subversive storytelling from the debutant filmmaker, one that most-definitely deserved a global stage like the Academy Awards.

A still from ‘Joyland’

A still from ‘Joyland’

Most recently, the Irish-Brit heart-throb duo in Andrew Haigh’s gay romance, All Of Us Strangers, fell prey to Academy snubbing. Andrew Scott’s sizzling on-screen chemistry with co-star Paul Mescal made for the most haunting coming-out story of 2023.

Here, in the spirit of Pride, it’s only fair that these films recieve a moment in the sun beyond the trappings of merely “queer cinema”, rather, films that serve as fitting reminders of some really inspiring storytelling. And no accolades could ever hope to capture that.

From The Hindu cinema team, a fortnightly column recommending films and shows tied to a mood, theme, or pop cultural event.

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