Press play for Pride
Make your viewing more inclusive in Pride Month with these films that cater to an LGBTQ+ audience
Midway through Pride Month, we decided to investigate the streaming options in India for films that cater to an LGBTQ+ audience. It turned out, unsurprisingly, that there wasn’t much to choose from. It was also unsurprising that Netflix was several leagues ahead in inclusiveness, given its superior collection of fiction and non-fiction films. Though LGBTQ+ streaming series are more equitably distributed—the polymorphous pulp of Sense8 on Netflix, Ryan Murphy’s newly arrived Pose on Hotstar, the spiky, all-inclusive Transparent on Amazon Prime—Netflix has almost all the queer film programming. Here are some of our recommendations:
Beach Rats (Netflix)
A surprising, and welcome, addition to the Netflix India library is this 2017 indie by Eliza Hittman, which won the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival last year. Beach Rats is the coming-of-age story of Frankie, a Brooklyn boy who meets men online and hooks up with them while maintaining a hetero façade with his friends. Hittman’s visual style has a grainy, sensual immediacy—it might remind you of Claire Denis’ Beau Travail—and Harris Dickinson is beautifully conflicted as Frankie.
Mala Mala (Netflix)
Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles’ 2014 documentary, Mala Mala, is a lively, empathetic look at the transgender community in Puerto Rico. The directors cover a broad spectrum within the trans community: old and young, sex workers, drag queens and reality stars. With its colourful chronicling of voices normally ignored or subdued, this documentary is often as funny and frank as an Almodóvar film.
Aruvi (Amazon Prime Video)
Arun Prabu Purushothaman’s directorial debut Aruvi (2017) takes some spectacular narrative risks, and there are moments in the second half when the film is in danger of being steamrolled by its own dramatic tendencies. One significant win, though, is the presence of Anjali Varadhan as Emily, protagonist Aruvi’s best friend. It’s rare enough to have a transgender character given prominent place in a mainstream film and allowed a range of feelings and motivations beyond that of an oppressed party, but to have a transwoman in the role instead of a cisgender actor is notable progress.
Joachim Trier’s 2017 film, which played at the Mumbai Film Festival last year, is a sleek mash-up of troubled teen movie and body horror thriller. Thelma (Eili Harboe), whose family is deeply religious and conservative, joins an Oslo university and is immediately attracted to fellow student Anja (Kaya Wilkins). This in itself might have made for an intriguing film, but throw in psychokinetic powers and a devastating family secret, and you get a most unusual thriller. The scene at the opera—erotic, tense—will haunt you for days.
A Single Man (Zee5)
Tom Ford’s second film, Nocturnal Animals, was a Lynchian exercise in stylish dread. Mannered beauty overrode emotion, quite unlike the fashion designer’s first film, A Single Man, the exquisite stylings of which only serve to highlight the stifled feelings of George Falconer, a closeted English professor in 1960s Los Angeles. Colin Firth’s self-lacerating performance is possibly his best; Julianne Moore, playing his friend, is equally wrenching; and Ford displays formidable control.
Sudhanshu Saria’s 2015 indie is a rare look at gay lives in India that doesn’t proselytize or lecture, but, instead, quietly observes. The film tracks the slow-burning attraction between old friends Sahil (Dhruv Ganesh) and Jai (Shiv Pandit) over a weekend in the Western Ghats. Its quiet intensity apart, Loev is carried by the heartbreaking performance of Ganesh, who died tragically young, before the film’s release.