John Cameron Mitchell: The gay directors you need to know
June, as many in the LGBTQ+ community will tell you, is Pride Month. The month is about self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of the LGBTQ+ community. It is also a time for reflection over the long and oftentimes tragic history of being an out LGBTQ+ person. Currently, the community is supporting the Black Lives Matter movement as both have supported each other for decades.
While many Pride events have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are finding different ways of celebrating Pride. From virtual parades to supporting Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ+ community is finding their own ways to celebrate this time.
If you’re looking to watch some films by gay directors, then here are five directors that we recommend checking out.
John Cameron Mitchell
Actor and director John Cameron Mitchell would best be known for being the original Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Itch. He originated the role in 1998 during the first Off-Broadway production. John Cameron Mitchell then directed and starred in the 2001 film adaptation of Hedwig and the Angry Itch. While the film is his best-known work, Mitchell has directed several other films both feature and short.
John Cameron Mitchell’s other features include 2006’s Shortbus, 2010’s Rabbit Hole, and 2017’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties. He’s also directed several short films including “Lady Grey London” and “Control Yourself.”
Andrew Ahn has only two feature films to his name so far, but he’s definitely a director to watch out for. Ahn is best known for his 2016 film Spa Night. The film follows a closeted gay Korean-American teenager who gets more than he bargains for at the Korean spa in LA’s Koreatown. Spa Night was funded via Kickstarter and went on to get Ahn a lot of attention at festivals.
Andrew Ahn’s second film is 2019’s Driveaways, which follows a young boy who is spending the summer in an upstate New York town while his mother cleans out the house of his recently deceased aunt. While there, the shy kid strikes up a friendship with the Korean War vet next door. Driveaways is currently available via VOD services.
Writer-director Dee Rees most prominent feature films explore sexual orientation and race. In 2011’s Pariah, which is Rees describes as semi-autobiographical, a young African-American teenager struggles with her sexual orientation as a lesbian. It’s an absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking film, which got Rees a lot of notice, especially from the indie scene.
Her other big work, 2017’s Mudbound, is partially inspired by her family’s own history and experiences. The historical drama follows two WWII veterans—one white and one black—who return to rural Mississippi, addressing racism and PTSD in their own ways. The film received several Academy Award nominations. Rees other features include Bessie and The Last Thing He Wanted.
Jamie Babbit is best known for her wonderful, campy, and heartwarming film, But I’m a Cheerleader. The 1999 feature follows a high school cheerleader sent to a conversion therapy camp in order to “cure” her lesbianism. The film has since become a cult classic and it is pretty great. Babbit, however, has had a thriving directing career since her best-known work.
In addition to But I’m a Cheerleader, Babbit has also directed The Quiet, Itty Bitty Tittie Committee, Breaking the Girls, Addicted to Fresno, and, most recently, The Stand-In. She also has numerous TV directing credits to her names as well. So there’s a ton of stuff to watch here.
Justin Simien is a multi-talented individual: producer, director, editor, writer, and actor. He definitely screams “hands on” in his IMDB page. Simien’s best-known work is the 2014 film, Dear White People. Dear White People focuses on a group of black students on the campus of a fictional, prestigious Ivy League college as racial tensions rise.
Dear White People was turned into a television series in 2017 on Netflix, which Simien is also very involved in. His other works include: Rings, INST MSGS (Instant Messages), Caught a Ghost: Get Your Life, and, more recently, Bad Hair.