Washington Blade staff recently collaborated on a series of recommendations to be featured on Comcast’s Xfinity LGBTQ Film & TV Collection, a community-driven library of about 800 TV shows and movies with gay and trans characters and storylines.
Participating were Blade Editor Kevin Naff, Blade Features Editor Joey DiGuglielmo and Staff Writer Mariah Cooper.
“You always feel a little unqualified tackling a project like this because unlike a critic who sees pretty much everything, the list of stuff we’ve each seen isn’t exhaustive,” DiGuglielmo says. “However, I’ve learned that sometimes the most satisfying options are things that weren’t necessarily on your own radar for whatever reason. We tend to gravitate toward things we think we might relate to, but if that’s all we ever do, we miss a lot.”
The Blade’s recommendations — in no particular order — are:
• “Blue is the Warmest Color” (2013) does what all great film should do — it transcends the specifics of the characters’ lives and makes you feel what they’re feeling. You don’t have to be a lesbian to feel swept away by the unbridled erotic passion here. (JD)
• “The Trans List” (2016) is a well-paced, doc from Timothy Greenfield-Sanders from HBO that explores the lives of 11 diverse, trans Americans. Over the course of it, you start to realize how absurd the “I don’t get it” arguments are against trans folks. What’s not to get? It’s not an esoteric concept. This should be required viewing for every red state U.S. citizen. (JD)
• “Bridegroom” (2013) is a documentary about an unmarried gay couple’s love story and the devastating aftermath when one of them falls four stories to an untimely death. The film explores the struggles unmarried same-sex couples had to be a part of health decisions and funeral proceedings without having legal standing in the relationship. (MC)
• “Tangerine” (2015) tells the story of transgender sex worker Sin-Dee who takes her best friend, fellow trans sex worker Alexandra, on a hunt to confront her cheating boyfriend. The indie comedy, which was shot entirely on iPhones, approaches the harsh realities of transgender sex work with a dark, gritty humor starring transgender actresses. (MC)
• “Outrage” (2009) is a documentary on outing in which the Blade is featured. It addresses Naff’s outing of FOX News anchor Shepard Smith in 2005. (KN)
• “Celluloid Closet” (1995) is an important film chronicling the history of how Hollywood portrayed LGBT characters — from censorship of gay storylines to repeated enforcement of anti-LGBT stereotypes. (KN)
• “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” (2014) whittles brilliantly through the hagiography we’ve collectively built around the slain hate crimes victim (which, of course, is overwrought and unrealistic) and gives us a fresh perspective on his life and untimely death. (JD)
• “Paris is Burning” (1990) is a groundbreaking, iconic film chronicling the underground ball scene in New York, exposing viewers to an LGBT scene most had never heard of before. (KN)
• “Larry Kramer in Love and Anger” (2015) is a touching, compelling documentary that does a great job capturing the landmark activist and writer realistically. You leave understanding what made him great and what fueled his righteous indignation but that doesn’t make him any softer around the edges. (JD)
• “Moonlight” (2016) was a historic moment for gay film. Ten years after anti-gay bigotry cost “Brokeback Mountain” the Oscar for best picture, “Moonlight” came along and smashed that glass ceiling for the community. (KN)
So why so many documentaries?
“That is kind of curious and we didn’t plan that,” DiGuglielmo says. “I’d say probably the format appeals to our journalistic instincts and also perhaps now that we’ve been through a hundred years-plus of cinematic narrative, there’s something really unfettered about docs that seems to resonate especially well with LGBT lives and events.”