With our third and final list of Oscar-nominated LGBTQ+ titles, we hope to spotlight a few hidden gems that might not have made it onto your Pride month queue before.
And once you make it through this list, mark your calendars for some upcoming 2021 queer releases: I Carry You with Me (June 25), Ailey (July 23), Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (September 17), as well as Beauty, Benedetta, and Flee, with release dates to be confirmed.
When police lieutenant Laurel Hester was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in 2005, she learned that her pension benefits could not be passed to her domestic partner Stacie simply because the two weren’t in a heterosexual marriage. Freeheld, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short, records their exhausting fight against the county’s discriminatory policies. Eight years later, it became a feature-length drama starring Julianne Moore and Elliot Page, thanks to a screenplay by gay activist and writer Ron Nyswaner.
With his intensely personal documentary about the murder of his brother, Yance Ford became the first trans man and first trans director ever nominated for an Oscar. While Strong Island is undoubtedly interested in how race, masculinity, and class contribute to the murder (and the family’s difficulties after that), Ford’s trans identity and queerness are interwoven into the recollection of events. While Ford never came out to his brother, he movingly remembers one of their last phone calls, when “it felt like [my brother] was talking the real me.”
Over the last decade, reporter-turned-filmmaker David France has built quite the impressive, queer-focused resume. How to Survive a Plague (for which he picked up an Oscar nomination) is his first of three documentaries. Making good use of his background as an investigative journalist, France highlights the FDA’s frustrating and damning reluctance to make the development of HIV/AIDS medication a priority during the height of the crisis.
His other works include The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, which profiles and investigates the unresolved death of the gay rights icon and Welcome to Chechnya, which documents the rescue of young queer folks out of anti-LGBTQ+ region. The latter made the Oscars shortlist for both Best Doc and Best VFX last year.
The first on-screen kiss between two women happened earlier than you might think: all the way back in 1930, when Marlene Dietrich, playing a nightclub singer in Morocco, plants one on a woman in the audience. While their kiss isn’t much more than just part of the show, Morocco was also a bit avant-garde in its bending of gender norms: in the same scene, Dietrich looks dashing in a top hat and full tuxedo, which was quite a controversial outfit for a woman in the 1930s.
Marguerite is a quiet and soft-spoken elderly woman growing old in her home, alone, except for when Rachel, her hired caretaker, comes to check-in. After learning that Rachel is a lesbian, Marguerite is reminded of her own long-lost love affair with a woman—and all the regrets, desires, and what-if’s that come with it. Through all of this, the two build a tender friendship that reflects on what it means to be queer at different ages and in different times. The 19-minute Canadian film was nominated for the Best Live Action Short Oscar and is available for free on Vimeo.