Seeing more and more movies and series based on LGBTQ+ stories is a great development in recent cinema history. For me personally, the most touching kind of stories are the ones based on real life events. It makes me emotional to think about the fact that these people actually lived and struggled so that we can live our lives the way we do today. They have helped the world become more open in accepting LGBTQ+ people, so this is why it’s important for us to be more familiar with their stories.
Let me present you a list of my favourites.
Pride is a touching, charming and super funny story that masterfully depicts events from the 80’s that are still relevant today.
Pride started with one of the biggest miner’s strike in Great Britain. In 1984, Margaret Thatcher started closing off economically undesirable mines, an act that mostly impacted small town, low income families whose lives depended on the work provided these places. A nation-wide strike ensued that put these people on the radar of the government, the police and tabloid newspapers. A small group of gay activists, armoured with a huge amount of enthusiasm and a sense of solidarity, started collecting donations to help the miners struggling in their unfortunate situation. They set out and travelled to a tiny village in Wales, trying to persuade people living in traditional male-female roles to accept their offerings.
There you have great material for a tearjerker: struggles of different groups of marginalized people, their differences and similarities, the status of women, feminism trying to gain momentum, the difficulties of coming out as well as the AIDS epidemic. Mix in believable conversations, funny situations and loveable characters with great story arcs and you get the perfect movie. This film is really an emotional rollercoaster: one moment the old ladies in the village are laughing out loud browsing through gay magazines and partying like there is no tomorrow in a gay bar, and the next the horror of AIDS just creeps into your mind with a barely noticable half-sentence. I could list all the great moments, but the best is to see it for yourself.
Matthew Warchus’ movie, based on Stephen Beresford’s screenplay came out in 2015. For the sake of the story, some details have been changed. No details about the economic reason behind closing the mines are provided, nor did they elaborate on the fact that the leader of the activists, Mark (played by Ben Schnetzer) was, in reality, a communist - in the movie his is depicted more as an idealist. What is indeed true though is the fact that the London Pride procession in 1985 was led by miners showing their gratitude for the help provided by the gay community, and that the protection of gay and lesbian rights is included in the Labour Party Constitution thanks to the decisive vote of the miner’s union in 1986.
I whole-heartedly recommend this movie to everyone, and for those of you who have already seen it, I think it’s high time to rewatch.
Peter Solett’s movie is based on a long and depressing legal procedure from 2006. Lauren Hester has been working for the police for 25 years when she was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. Everyone who is working for the force is granted with annuity for their spouse, but Lauren’s common-law partner, Stacie Andree was denied this benefit. The case has received a ton of criticism and huge media attention. In the end, in 2006, they won the case and Laurel could die in peace, knowing that Stacie can keep their home which she wouldn’t have been able to provide for alone.
First, in 2007, a documentary based on the events was released, then the feature film, Freeheld premiered in 2015 starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page. The movie received mixed reviews, with some criticism on the sometimes over-sentimental and over-dramatic scenes, but all in all it’s a touching story.
What the movie does justice best is the characters’ relationship with their homosexuality, showing a wide range of perspectives on the topic. Due to the male-dominant field of her occupation, Laurel struggles to be treated the same way as her male co-workers and hides her sexuality in order to avoid worsening her situation. She emphasizes several times during the film that what she wants is not special but equal treatment. With the help of her partner Stacey, who is open about her sexual orientation (sometimes even stereotypically so), Laurel is also able to accept herself. Going through the biggest change is Laurel’s heterosexual co-worker Dane (Michael Shannon) who, after struggling with his own worldviews, chooses to stand by his work partner after all. The comic releif in the story is without question Steven, played by Steve Carrel, who plays a gay activist-slash-Jewish lawyer who is a perfect example of sometimes almost parody-like gay activist figure, - the worst nightmare of legal institutions.
I am not going to lie: this movie will most likely make you cry, but if you are interested in a very important milestone in the legalization of gay marriage, you might want to give it a try.
Although being a lesbian is a not the most important theme in Colette, dealing with the taboos associated with female sexuality, women’s equal rights and the controversial institution of marriage still makes it an interesting watch.
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette is to this day one of the most well-known French novelists. She is also the first woman to be invited to the member of the Academy as well as the first one to be receiving an honorary, national funeral. She married writer Henry Gauthier-Villars, who was 14 years her senior at the age of 20. When he realized that she is talented with words, Willy asked his wife to be his ghost writer. Well, this is making it sound nice, but actually, she was the one writing, but her works were published under Willy’s name since he was already famous, but lacked in inspiration. This is how the Claudine-series were born, an instant success. Owing to this novel-series, they had no more money problems and Willy became a national phenomenon.
The movie, directed by Wash Westmoreland is focused on the story of Colette (Keira Knightley) stepping out of her husband’s shadow, fighting off social conventions. She becomes a more self-aware person in the process, in which her lesbian lover, Missy (Denise Gough) plays a huge part. In these times the place of the woman was really in the kitchen, think of how hard it was for her to step up, put on her fighting pants to go against oppression and openly embrace her sexuality.
Fun fact, however not included in the film, is that Colette, after her divorce filed a lawsuit for the legal ownership of the Claudine-series, and eventually she indeed won the case. It is also worth mentioning that parts of the movie were shot in Budapest. If you like period dramas based on real life events, this one is for you.
Translated by Dóra Bajnóczi