Pride . . . and prejudice
Like George Floyd’s murder, the Pride Month remains a cautionary reminder of what happens when discrimination or bigotry rears its ugly head.
Sometimes, it can even take shape in the form of an insensitive joke like, as Winona Ryder recently recalled in an interview with The Sunday Times, Mel Gibson despicably describing a Jew an “oven dodger” or wondering if he’d get infected with AIDS just by talking to someone gay. He allegedly attempted to apologize later, but a telling statement like that isn’t something you just sweep under the rug and forget.
“Casual” run-ins with bigots like the aforementioned celebrity is the reason why the Pride Month, meant to promote the “self-affirmation, dignity, equality and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people as a social group,” should always be remembered.
It commemorates the meaningful uprising that resulted following the Stonewall riots at the end of June 1969. By raising the rainbow flag, we help promote equality, diversity and acceptance, and reject the shame and social stigma associated with the gay community.
Here are some of the most significant pink-themed films we’ve seen in recent months depicting the LGBTQ community’s rainbow-tinged experiences—each as diverse and distinctive as the next:
‘PAIN AND GLORY’
In this stunningly photographed and exquisitely crafted 2019 film (which has a 97-percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes), Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar draws on his life to paint a delectable portrait of an aging filmmaker, Salvador Mallo (Oscar nominee Antonio Banderas), who comes to terms with aging, a colorful career weighed down by illness and artistic ennui, and bittersweet memories of the gorgeous One That Got Away and got married (Leonardo Sbaraglia).
‘THE BLONDE ONE’
Set in Buenos Aires, Marco Rubio’s romantic Argentine drama, about single father Gabriel (Gaston Re) and his brusque and sexually ambivalent flatmate Juan (Alfonso Barón), is as sweet as it is heartbreaking. But the duo’s ever-growing bond is put to a test when their closeted sexual urges get the better of them.
As their affection for each other heightens, it is soon impeded by Juan’s relationship with a pregnant fling, compounded further by his refusal to step out of the closet. But the production’s poignant final frame gives Gabriel—and so many others like him—good reason to wait for the light at the end of the tunnel.
‘AND THEN WE DANCED’
Set in Georgia, Levan Akin’s exhilarating 2019 movie received a 15-minute standing ovation when it premiered in Cannes last year—with good reason. In this drama about love and liberation, protagonist Merab’s (Levan Gelbakhiani) shot for a slot in the National Georgian Ensemble gets slimmer upon the arrival of problematic but prodigiously talented new recruit Irakli (Bachi Valishvili)—who soon shares more than just sweet smooches with Merab! But the closeted dancer eventually finds support, acceptance and gratifying compassion where he least expects them.
‘THE HALF OF IT’
Alice Wu’s modern American take on “Cyrano de Bergerac” provides just the right dose of coming-of-age rom-com and coming-out drama that finds friendless nerd Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) forging an unlikely friendship with hunky but inarticulate school jock Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer).
The latter wants Ellie to help him write his love letters to unassuming school beauty Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). But the ambiguity of Ellie and Paul’s relationship soon turns into a complicated game of musical chairs.
Li Cheng’s Venice-winning Queer Lion awardee, released in the United States in January, follows the closeted titular character (Enrique Salanic) as he explores his “evolving” sexuality in Guatemala’s impoverished urban jungles.
His waking hours away from his life as a food peddler for itinerant drivers are soon enlivened by the arrival of Luis (Manolo Herrera), a migrant from the Caribbean. Does this “unconventional” romance stand a chance in the crime-infested, cash-strapped and deeply conservative society they live in?
‘DEW (LET’S GO TOGETHER)’
Don’t be deceived by its rom-com sheen. A flawed but earnest take on the gender-bending South Korean film “Bungee Jumping of Their Own,” Chookiat Salveerakul’s 2019 reincarnation drama is framed by a love story outlawed by cultural norms, discrimination and ignorance.
Set in Pang Noi, Thailand in 1996, the movie revolves around Phop (Sadanon Durongkaveroj as a teen, and Sukollawat Kanarot as an adult) and transfer student Dew (Chittsawangdee Pawat), who quickly discover there’s more to their relationship than just friendship. But it’s the kind of love they’re forbidden to express because, in this small conservative town, homosexuality is considered an illness that has driven its community leaders to send gay teens to “corrective” therapy.
In Trinh Dinh Le Minh’s 2019 film, handsome heir Van (Lanh Thanh) goes home to Vietnam, with boyfriend Ian (Vo Dien Gia Huy) in tow, for the entombment of his dad’s remains. But after nine years of living in the United States, his mother (Hong Dao) wants him to take over the family business—and finally choose a bride!
‘MEMORIES OF MY BODY’
Garin Nugroho’s 2018 production “Memories of My Body” examines how Juno (Muhammad Khan), a Lengger dancer in Central Java in Indonesia, comes to terms with his sexuality when he meets a handsome kickboxer (Randy Pangalila)—no easy feat for someone who lives in a society that frowns at gay men.
Mike Mosallam’s insightfully helmed 2020 production is even more unique because Mo (Haaz Sleiman), its gay protagonist, is a Muslim doctor devoutly observing “iftar” (meal after sunset) during the holy month of Ramadan as he goes about his life in West Hollywood.
One year after his longtime boyfriend Hassan (Patrick Sabongui) is outed by his angry cousin and decides to marry a woman, Mo crosses paths with up-and-coming actor Kal (Michael Cassidy). To Mo’s surprise, the straight-acting All-American gay hunk, who grew up in Jordan, offers to break fast with him during Ramadan.
Does Mo stand a chance at finally riding happily into the sunset with his too-good-to-be-true Prince Charming? Love moves in mysterious ways, indeed.
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