Film Daily’s Top 5 LGBT Films of 2016
2016 wasn’t a year for breakout LGBT films: there wasn’t a Carol or a The Kids Are Alright to make waves at awards shows this season. Still, there were a lot of funny and fascinating LGBT films released throughout the year. While it’s tough to put together a list of “top” ones, here are a few you may not have heard of, that we think you shouldn’t miss.
Moonlight, directed Barry Jenkins, follows the early years of Chiron, a gay black man struggling with self-acceptance as he navigates life with a crack-addicted mother and gets sucked into the “school-to-prison pipeline” that defines the world in which he’s brought up. Chiron is portrayed masterfully by a succession of actors: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes. Rarely are gay black male characters given this sort of complexity or depth onscreen.
Coming-of-age dramas are a dime a dozen in the LGBT film category. What makes Spa Night unique is that it explores L.A.’s Koreatown. That’s where its protagonist, David (Joe Seo) lives with his family. When the closeted teen gets a job at a men’s spa in order to help out his family, it kicks off a journey of self-exploration. Directed by Andrew Ahn, Spa Night won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize at Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival.
Set in Cuba, Viva explores the world of drag divas through the eyes of Jesus (Héctor Medina), the hairdresser for a group of nightclub performers. His dreams of drag show stardom are fanned by Mama, his mentor at the club, but dampened by cold reality: with his mother dead and father in prison, Jesus’ likely path will be sex work.
When his father gets released and moves in with him, Jesus must decide whether to pursue his dreams or drop them due to to pressure from his macho father. Director Paddy Breathnach does a masterful job with this sensitive and soulful film.
This HBO documentary goes behind the scenes of Bindle and Keep, a Brooklyn-based tailoring company working with gender-nonconforming clients. Director Jason Benjamin interviews a series of customers who turned to the business for clothing that’s a custom fit for their bodies – something often impossible for them to find in stores with an off-the-rack selection. Producer Lena Dunham told Time that, even though the film is about clothing, its message goes much deeper.
“Any time you talk about identity and what that can mean, you’re doing something political, even if you’re not literally talking about legislation or political buzzwords,” she proclaimed. “This film allows people to realize that behind politics are people.”
With Kiki, director Sara Jordenö continues the saga that began in the 1990 film Paris is Burning. The documentary goes deep into New York City’s ballroom scene – the birthplace of “vogueing” in the 1980’s. From dance-offs to drag shows, the film tells the story of a group of young, brash, and bold LGBT people of color. Kiki won a Teddy Award for best LGBT-related documentary film at the Berlin International Film Festival.