With the arrival of June, it is once again Pride Month, a time to celebrate queer self-affirmation and to recognize the hard-won advancements in visibility and equality for the LGBTQ+ community.
Look no further than the big screen: This year has seen more meaningful representation than ever before across all types of movies, from queer independent films to the biggest franchise in the world. Capturing the spirit of Pride are films like Everything Everywhere All at Once and Fire Island — finally, the queer Pride and Prejudice we've been waiting for — with more milestones to come: Billy Porter makes his directorial debut with Anything's Possible, a teen rom-com with a Black trans lead, while Billy Eichner's Bros makes history as the first gay romantic comedy from a major studio to star an entirely queer principal cast. There's plenty more work to be done, but fortunately, we have these trailblazing artists, who have dedicated themselves to telling stories of gay liberation and queer joy across the vast spectrum of LGBTQ+ experiences.
This Pride, A.frame is spotlighting 15 LGBTQ+ directors, writers, producers, and actors on the rise, from Andrew Ahn to Justin Simien and representing talent from the U.S., Kenya, Belgium, Sweden, and more.
Andrew Ahn / writer, director, producer
Since graduating from CalArts in 2011, Andrew Ahn has made an impact exploring life for queer, Asian American and queer Asian American characters. The L.A.-based director made his debut with 2016's Spa Night, about a closeted Korean American teenager who explores the underground world of gay sex at a Korean spa. In 2019, he helmed Driveways, an intimate family drama about a boy who strikes up a friendship with a lonely war veteran.
Ahn's latest is the Hulu romantic comedy, Fire Island, a Pride and Prejudice retelling starring Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang. "I remember pitching the script to Searchlight and to Joel and our producers and I created a pitch deck that included photos of my friends group. And I said, 'I want to make this for them,'" Ahn tells A.frame. "They bring me joy, and they've supported me in ways that I could not have imagined. I hope this film inspires other groups of friends to just celebrate and cherish each other."
READ: Andrew Ahn on Finding Magic and Chosen Family on 'Fire Island' (Exclusive)
WHAT TO WATCH: Andrew Ahn: 5 Movies That Taught Me to Love Cinema
Levan Akin / writer, director
The Swedish filmmaker, who has Georgian roots, broke out with his critically acclaimed drama, And Then We Danced, which premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. The film follows a gay Georgian dancer in modern-day, conservative Tbilisi, as he find himself up against tough competition for the opportunity of a lifetime.
In all of his films, Akin aims for authenticity, especially when it comes to LGBTQ+ love stories. "I just wanted it to feel really, really authentic, and for those moments of first love to be so real," he recently said. "I've never seen those in a gay movie... I really wanted to catch those micro-moments, because I think a lot of gay people can identify with those situations."
Next up, Akin is directing Passage, a gay love story set in Turkey, to be released next year.
Jonathan Bailey / actor
While best known as the swoon-worthy Viscount Anthony Bridgerton on Netflix's Regency era bodice-ripper, the English thespian is a veteran of the stage and big screen. (Bailey is a Laurence Olivier Award for the former; his latter credits include 2016's The Young Messiah and 2017's The Mercy.) Throughout his career, Bailey has made a point of playing both gay and straight roles on-screen. As he's explained, "If I can fill spaces that I didn't have growing up, then I feel like that's a really brilliant thing."
Bailey is next slated to begin shooting the comedy Maria alongside Felicity Jones.
Joel Kim Booster / actor, writer, producer
The comedian and bona fide multi-hyphenate is one of the stars of Fire Island, a rom-com that he also wrote and executive produced. Born in South Korea and raised in the suburbs of Illinois, Booster started out doing stand-up comedy in Chicago before trying his hand at acting. He's starred in series like NBC's Sunnyside and Hulu's Shrill, as well as lending his voice to the animated Netflix comedy, Big Mouth.
Booster recently said of Fire Island that "some of the happiest moments of my life have been on that island. That was the driving force behind the project. I just wanted to show — and this is so corny — gay joy."
Elegance Bratton / writer, director, producer
The Jersey City-born filmmaker and photographer is known for his PBS documentary Pier Kids: The Life, which follows homeless queer and trans youth of color as they create lives for themselves on Christopher Street Pier in New York City. Bratton co-directed the 2020 short film, Buck, about a young Black gay man's struggles with depression, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Next up, he's directing the semi-autobiographical feature, The Inspection, starring Jeremy Pope and Gabrielle Union, which Bratton calls "very much about my own life — a homeless guy joins the Marine Corps to win back his mother's love, but then must conceal his attraction to his drill instructor." He is also set to helm a documentary about James Reese Europe titled Hellfighters.
Auli'i Cravalho / actor
Many know the Hawaii-born actress for voicing the title role in Disney's animated film Moana, as well as singing the Oscar-nominated "How Far I'll Go." (Cravalho performed the original song onstage at the 89th Oscars.) Her latest is the Hulu rom-com Crush, playing a high school track star caught up in a queer love triangle. Cravalho herself came out as bisexual on TikTok.
Next up, she is starring in the musical Spring Awakening, a story of a group of teens in 19th century Germany discovering their sexuality, and Hulu's fantasy drama Darby Harper Wants You to Know.
Emma Corrin / actor
The actor's breakthrough came playing Princess Diana in The Crown, for which she was Emmy-nominated. Corrin identifies as queer and nonbinary, using the pronouns she/they, and says playing the Princess of Wales helped her come out. "It's wonderful to know that I've played someone who was such a help to so many people in that community and so supportive to that community," she told The New York Times. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't help me in my journey with everything to play someone like Diana."
Corrin next stars co-stars in the queer romance My Policeman alongside Harry Styles and David Dawson, and will play the title role in an upcoming adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover.
Ariana DeBose / actor
The Broadway standout became the first openly queer woman of color to receive an acting Oscar when she won Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Anita in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story. Onstage, DeBose said, "To anybody who has ever questioned your identity — ever, ever, ever — or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us."
DeBose next stars in Matthew Vaughn's Argylle, a spy caper starring Henry Cavill, Bryce Dallas Howard and Dua Lipa, and DC's Aaron Taylor-Johnson-starrer Kraven the Hunter, as voodoo priestess Calypso.
Lukas Dhont / writer, director
The Belgian filmmaker made his feature debut with 2018's Girl, about a trans woman who pursues a career as a ballerina. His latest film, Close, is a coming-of-age story about two adolescent boys whose bond is tragically separated. Close premiered during the 2022 Cannes Film Festival this year, where it tied for the Grand Prix award.
"It's a very important film for me. After Girl, I wanted to speak of the subject of a film with the same intensity. It talks about very personal things," Dhont said following his win. "I wanted to make these emotions universal. It's always a very fragile moment, sharing something with the public when you've put everything inside it. I tried to remain faithful to myself while trying to challenge myself to do even better. There's a great desire to make films. I hope that, in the future, my films will be just as warmly received."
Beanie Feldstein /actor, producer
Feldstein may have played the hetero half of Booksmart's duo, but the actor identifies as queer. "I am constantly proud to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community," Feldstein has said. "When Kaitlyn [Dever], Olivia [Wilde] and I were going all over the place talking about Booksmart, I felt immensely proud to be a part of a movie that centered queer experiences in a way that made a lot of people feel very seen and validated."
Feldstein won audiences over in Greta Gerwig's Oscar-nominated Lady Bird and portrayed Monica Lewinsky in the FX series, Impeachment: American Crime Story. Next up, she will star alongside Daniel Radcliffe in the Richard Linklater-directed musical, Merrily We Roll Along.
Stephanie Hsu / actor
Before Everything Everywhere All at Once, the actor was known for her role as Mei Lin on the Emmy-winning series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. That all changed when A24 released the groundbreaking, genre-defying movie, in which Hsu plays the daughter of Michelle Yeoh's characters, whose inability to truly accept that her child is queer puts the entire multiverse in jeopardy. Hsu said that working on the film "was the most inspiring, artistic experience I've ever had in my life."
Next up, she will star in an untitled comedy directed by Adele Lim (the screenwriter behind Crazy Rich Asians) and reunite with Yeoh for the Disney+ series, American Born Chinese.
Wanuri Kahiu / writer, director, producer
The Kenyan filmmaker is considered one of Africa's most important young talents and is credited with creating her own movie genre: Afrobubblegum, which celebrate Black joy onscreen. Her 2018 feature Rafiki was the first lesbian love story to ever come out of Kenya — where the movie was banned — and the first Kenyan film to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was met with a standing ovation.
Kahiu's next movie is The Thing About Jellyfish starring Millie Bobby Brown. The drama, which is based on a novel written by Ali Benjamin, hails from Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine and will debut on Netflix.
Indya Moore / actor
The Bronx-born nonbinary, transgender actor and model made her onscreen debut playing Angel Evangelista in the groundbreaking and award-winning series, Pose. Since then, she's appeared in movies like Queen & Slim, Netflix's A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting, and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. Behind the scenes, Moore founded her own production company, Bettlefruit Media, to tell stories about disenfranchised groups.
Next up, Moore stars as DC comic character Karshon in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
Jasmin Savoy-Brown / actor
The California-born actor has had one helluva year between her hit Showtime series, Yellowjackets, and the blockbuster Scream "requel," where she became the franchise's first queer character of color — and survived to star in the sequel! Savoy-Brown identifies as a queer lesbian and has said of playing Mindy Meeks-Martin: "Playing a queer woman of color is just playing a person like myself. There's nothing that epic about me. We just haven't seen this in those roles very much, so it feels right, and I want more of it."
Savoy-Brown will next star in the upcoming Scream 6, which will be out in 2023.
Justin Simien / writer, director, producer
The Houston-born director entered the scene with his 2014 director debut, Dear White People, a satirical dark comedy exploring race relations at a prestigious Ivy League college. The movie won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Simien later adapted his film into a the Netflix series of the same name, which ran for four seasons. "As a person of color, I was just really tired of the fact that I wasn't seeing my story in the culture," he said.
Among his upcoming productions, Simien will direct Disney's Haunted Mansion reboot, starring Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish and Owen Wilson and set for release in 2023, and a Flashdance streaming series for Paramount+.
By Nadja Sayej