The 10 Best Documentary Portraits of LGBT Culture

Paris is Burning

Miramax Home Entertainment

Happy Pride Month, everyone! The best way to celebrate is to watch documentaries, as is true of all festive occasions.

In this case there are plenty to choose from. The LGBT community, as a distinct social group, is arguably about as old as cinema itself. It’s something of a 20th century phenomenon. The moving image has always had a crucial role in the construction of gay identity, whether mediated through the icons of Classic Hollywood or the more recent manifestations of queer people in popular culture.

After all, the most recent active attempt to help queer youth define themselves, the “It Gets Better” Campaign, was made up of YouTube videos that directly address an entire generation. The subsequent debate over its unintentional highlighting of the success of upper middle class, predominantly white gay men was also very much about its image.

And so, with that said, it’s important to take some time this month and watch honest and celebratory cinematic representations of queer people. The following 10 films span more than 50 years of creative LGBT filmmaking. They represent the great variety of perspective within the vast umbrella of queer experience, a diversity that is central in what we are all supposed to be proud of in the first place.

Finally, a programming note. This list features documentaries centered on LGBT culture. Next week we’ll be posting a list made up of much more explicitly political documentaries on the subject of LGBT rights. In a way this is a false distinction. Identity sits on a blurred line between the personal and political, and this is especially true when it comes to the struggle for civil rights for LGBT people. However, dividing things this way is an excellent excuse to recommend 10 more films. Stay tuned for the next installment.


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