Rob Epstein: 6 Powerful LGBTQ+ Films
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Rob Epstein

In 1985, Rob Epstein became the first openly gay director to win an Oscar with The Times of Harvey Milk, which was itself the first LGBTQ+ film to be recognized by the Academy. He won a second Oscar in 1990 for his AIDS Memorial Quilt documentary, Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt.

"In the spirit of Pride Month, I chose these six LGBTQ+ films for their unique and powerful cinematic impressions of the human experience which continue to reverberate in my consciousness," he says. Below, Epstein shares those movies.

This article was originally published on June 17, 2020.

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A visually inventive, low-budget trans comedy with a big heart. Fierce trans women of color realness shot on the iPhone 5 to boot. What could be better?

End of the Century
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A poetic, soulful story of love, dreams, and aloneness. Set in Barcelona, with a complex structure that skillfully plays with time, it has one of the best cinema seduction love scenes ever, shot in one long hand-held take. Sexy, erotic, and brutally honest, it’s a reminder of how rare it (still) is to see male-male intimacy in movies, despite this lived reality for so many of us.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
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A layered masterwork of forbidden love. A beautiful French period drama entirely from the perspective of the female gaze.

Portrait of Jason
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Filmed over the course of an evening — and a lot of liquor — a young Black male hustler regales us with his wild tales. Shirley Clarke’s radical film was way ahead of its time and remains a vivid peek into a subculture from another era.

Tongues Untied
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The late Marlon Riggs’s brilliant and visionary look at racism and homophobia in the USA. Working in a kaleidoscopic myriad of forms, from poetry to performance to personal testimony told directly to the camera, Riggs’s audacious film bursts with joy, tenderness, and rage.

Word Is Out

Made in 1977, the first feature-length documentary made about being LGBTQ by a collective of lesbian and gay filmmakers (full disclosure, I was one of the them). Twenty-six individuals in the last quarter of the 20th century tell us who they are at a time when the world was only just beginning to listen.

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