7 vital LGBTQ+ films from around the world that made waves in 2023
During a year when LGBTQ+ rights have been under attack both in the UK, US and internationally, the need for queer stories to be told through film has never been more important.
2023 has been a standout year for LGBTQ+ cinema, from festival premieres to straight-to-streaming hits. There’s been something for everyone, from feel-good romcoms like Red, White & Royal Blue and Bottoms to devastating dramas like All of Us Strangers and the sensual (and slightly maddening) Passages.
While movies from across the UK and have understandably made a splash this year, there are countless more from non-Western perspectives that have found not only international acclaim but an audience among global queer communities looking for themselves on the big screen.
Here’s our roundup of the queer films telling international stories that you need to see before the year is out…
Pakistani film Joyland made history as the first ever to be shortlisted for the Oscars and selected for the Cannes Film Festival. The film follows rising trans starlet Biba (Alina Khan) as she sweeps unsuspecting married man Haider (Ali Junejo) into her glamorous world.
As the two embark on an affair, we see the toll it takes on Haider’s wife Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq) and the true risks of pursuing a forbidden love in the beating cultural heart of Pakistan, Lahore.
Directed by Saim Sadiq, the controversial subject matter saw Joyland banned across Pakistan, prompting high-profile Pakistani public figures, Riz Ahmed and Mala Yousafzai, to come on board as executive producers.
Frybread Face and Me
Frybread Face and Me – created by Billy Luther and executive produced by Taika Waititi – follows San Diego preteen Benny as he’s are sent to his grandma’s in rural north Arizona, to a place known as Navajo Nation, over the summer of 1990.
In this tender queer coming-of-age, which offers a nuanced portrayed of the Navajoland Native American community, Benny (Keir Tallman) meets his bold and brash cousin Dawn aka Frybread Face (Charley Hogan) who speaks Navajo and easily takes him under her wing.
As the cousins grow ever-closer, Benny discovers the beauty of family, connects with his heritage and, if the trailer is anything to go by, learning about the concept of lesbians for the first time.
The Blue Caftan
Shortlisted for the 2023 Oscars, Moroccan film The Blue Caftan follows the quietly heartbreaking tale of Moroccan tailor Halim (Saleh Bakri) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal). When Halim begins mentoring the new shop assistant Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), the two weave a love for one another as strong as their love for their craft.
When Mina is diagnosed with a terminal illness, she must grapple with the truth of her husband’s sexuality and realises the power in choosing yourself, and true happiness.
Who I Am Not
From Romanian director Tünde Skorvan and executive produced by Academy Award winner Patricia Arquette, Who I Am Not follows South African beauty queen Sharon-Rose Khumalo and male presenting intersex activist Dimakatso Sebidi.
Both open up about the struggles of growing up intersex, and the strong taboo to discuss who they truly are, the audience.
The docudrama offers a powerful platform for an often overlooked and “long ignored” part of the LGBTQ+ community and goes a long away in breaking down our binary understanding of gender in Western society.
Who Am I Not is not currently not available to watch online.
Truth-seeking and unfailingly courageous documentary Queendom follows LGBTQ+ and Russian drag activist Gena Marvin, who uses her drag to promote powerful political messages in the face of Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ and authoritarian regime.
The heart-pounding, tear-jerking and, at times, uplifting documentary shares some of Marvin’s most defiant protests (such as walking the streets wrapped in barbed wire), the queer community in Russia and the human cost of speaking out against injustice.
Directed by Roger Ross Williams, Cassandro chronicles the true story behind the life of gay amateur wrestler Saúl Armendáriz (portrayed by Gael García Berna). Originally from El Paso, Texas, he regularly crossed the border into Mexcio where he competed in lucha libre wrestling matches, ultimately earning himself the title of the ‘Liberace of Lucha Libre’.
The feature film, also starring Bad Bunny as Saúl’s love interest, follows the athlete as he transforms the world of macho wrestling by unapologetically showing up as himself in and out of the ring.
South Korean dance film Peafowl is a must-watch to immerse yourself in the bold and brilliant drag scene in Seoul. It follows Steely Shin Myung (Hae-jun), a fierce trans queen who is a regular on the Seoul nightclub scene.
She has her sights set on the jackpot prize at a high-stakes dance competition which will fund her gender-affirming surgery. But when her estranged father dies, she must channel her dancing skills to perform at his memorial. Here she soon finds herself reconnecting with her youth and her Buddhist heritage.
Peafowl is not currently not available to watch online.
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