Sally Jane Black
Digital Assets Specialist
|BARA NO SORETSU
|I Am Cuba
|The Body Beautiful
|The Company of Strangers
|The Watermelon Woman
BARA NO SORETSU
LGBTQ history is so often hidden from us, buried, obscured by prejudices of those who dig up history. So to have a document that captures a moment in history even through brief glimpses is invaluable. But this is more than simply the the interviews; this is a queer film in the sense of its structure, its vision, its beauty. It is more than "queering" a classic story. It is indulgent, violent, and defiant. It shows queer people as complex human beings by using storytelling that lets reality and fiction run into each other violently. It uses imagery that ranges from iconic and proud to disturbing, from surreal to horrifically real. It's the best of queer cinema and of cinema in general.
You may think it strange to call a film so seemingly niche as one of the greatest of all time, but the value of cinema made by and for people in marginalized, clandestine communities has more value than anything made by the rich and powerful selling their messages to mass audiences. This film captures something more real and poignant in letting leatherdykes speak for themselves than anything heralded by a capitalist studio. This is what cinema should be: raw, honest, and uncompromising. And sensual.
I Am Cuba
A love letter from one socialist country to another, a testament to the artistry of the proletariat, and the most beautiful film ever made. This is solidarity on film. This is a film saying what the material aide the USSR gave to Cuba truly meant - admiration beyond words, only expressible through innovative cinema. It shows what it means to struggle against the violence of oppression and exploitation, how ruthless the capitalist class is, and the sacrifices we must make to win. And it does so with such beauty and grace that it inspires deep revolutionary optimism.
The Body Beautiful
It should not take this level of bravery to make a film about body image like this. It should not require bravery to show our scars. But the fact that it does makes this film painfully moving. There are few images that have remained with me so intensely as the sight of those scars.
There's a moment when a young woman expresses her desire to be a missionary, and two men share a look. In that moment, volumes are spoken about the history of missionaries on reservations. This is a film made with a certain amount of knowing glances, of unspoken lines, that allow the audience to take in more than if it were bluntly made, and in that, it finds grace and insight. That this is a story of race and gender told from and by someone who lives at that intersection, as an indigenous trans woman, makes what is unsaid even more powerful.
One of the many ways to heal from trauma is to delve into the past and unpack it and its impact on our current lives. A film that visualizes that, that does exactly that, becoming almost confessional at times, feels like an invitation, feels like a magnet, like it is opening your own wounds and asking you to heal with it.
Filmmakers like Hammer did more than just create the finest experimental, finest queer films, they did the work of unearthing film history and confronting it. This combines all of the best parts of Barbara Hammer's filmography.
While capitalist media has done everything it can to demonize national liberation struggles around the world, rare pieces like Sambizanga exist to show the truth. Art like this is incredible not just because it has been so regularly suppressed, attacked, or censored (directly or indirectly), but that should not be discounted as valid and important criteria for what makes a great film. Storytelling like this is the antidote to all of the lies told about the fight for liberation.
The Company of Strangers
From the first moment I saw this, I knew I had to tell everyone I ever met to watch it. I had not then nor have I since seen a film capture quiet, peace, calm as I have in this film. This defies every expectation one might have for it. A group of women, stranded for a few days in the middle of nowhere, stay in an old house and talk about their lives. It almost sounds like it should be a horror movie, but it instead is a window into the lives of eight strangers whose lives are both familiar and compelling.
The Watermelon Woman
It is fitting that such a landmark film is an exploration of the missing pieces of film history and queer lives. It's almost too fitting; it took over 100 years of cinema for an out Black lesbian to make feature length film that saw any kind of real distribution or release. The same film tells a story of exploring all of that untold history, and it does so without pretension, without making the film inscrutable. Instead, it makes history clearer, more relatable. That's something too many filmmakers fail at when trying to breakthrough conventions or explore art itself; Dunye doe it with ease.
This was the most impossible poll I have ever filled out, so here's a ton of other movies I love that deserve love: Pride (2014), Suzanne Suzanne (1982), LA Plays Itself (1972), Sink or Swim (1990), Mermaids (1990), Muriel's Wedding (1994), Emitai (1971), Desert Hearts (1985), L'Ange (1982), Madchen in Uniform (1931), Breakaway (1966), Bush Mama (1979), The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), But I'm a Cheerleader (1999), Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Long Day Closes (1992), Red Detachment of Women (1961), Salt of the Earth (1954), Measures of Distance (1988), The Day I Became a Woman (2000), Pink Flamingos (1972), Feherlofia (1981), Fantasmagorie (1908), A Moment of Innocence (1996), The Seventh Victim (1943), The Night of the Hunter (1955), The Little Girl of Hanoi (1975), Still Life (1974), The Muppet Movie (1979), Looking for Langston (1989), Empire Records (1995), The Wind Will Carry Us (1999), One Sings the Other Doesn't (1977), Waitress (2007), No Home Movie (2015), Two Days One Night (2014), Four Days in July (1984), Buddies (1985).