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    The Best Queer Films of 2017

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    2017 featured no shortage of fine LGBTQ films, documentaries, and shorts that spoke to queer life in the age of Trump. Here is a roundup of the best LGBTQ films in 2017.

    Call Me by Your Name was an astonishing romantic drama brought to the screen by gay filmmaker Luca Gaudagnino, with a screenplay by out writer/director James Ivory. The romance between Elio (Timothée Chamalet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) was seductive and heartbreaking, and the film itself is spellbinding.

    Another great film this year was out filmmaker Dee Rees’ Mudbound. While not a queer film in terms of content, Rees’ poignant period drama about race in 1940s Mississippi deservedly ended up on many critics’ Best Lists.

    Also among the best films of the year was Raoul Peck’s dazzling documentary I Am Not Your Negro, about gay writer James Baldwin. An urgent, cogent film about race relations, the film opened back in February and played for months, a testament to the power and legacy of Baldwin’s voice.

    Other outstanding documentaries depicting queer African American experiences this year include Whose Streets?, a moving film about activism in Ferguson, MO, and Quest (opening Jan 5 in San Francisco), a touching portrait of an African American family in North Philadelphia.

    One of the highlights of this year was Handsome Devil, by gay writer/director John Butler. The film has a gay teenager sharing a room with a closeted athlete at an Irish boarding school. Devil charms, in part, because the boys become friends, not lovers. This sweet comedy-drama deserves a look.

    Also from the United Kingdom was God’s Own Country, which depicts the tough and tender romance between a young, closeted British farmer, and the Romanian immigrant who comes to help out at his farm. The film is gorgeously made by out director Francis Lee, and features strong performances by the leads.

    From France, BPM was queer writer/director Robin Campillo’s Cannes-award winning drama about the Paris ACT UP. A sprawling, entertaining film, with a sensitive romance unfolding amid actions by the ACT UP members, BPM was magnifique. In France, the film has been a big success; in America, where it failed to attract a large audience, it is more of a succès d’estime.

    Even one of the biggest hits in Mexico, Hazlo Como Hombre, about a gay man coming out to his friends, did better box office at home than abroad. An amusing comedy about machismo, Hombre was overlooked in America, but is well worth seeing.

    American independent cinema included some interesting and exciting queer-themed titles that dealt obliquely with true crime.

    Beach Rats, the sophomore effort by Eliza Hittman, was an absorbing character study about a closeted Brooklynite, played by Harris Dickinson in a star-making turn. The film, however, depicted a real-life killing a bit too closely for comfort.

    My Friend Dahmer was Marc Meyers’ sharp, smart adaptation of Derf Backderf’s graphic novel about the teen years of gay, cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. This outstanding drama benefits from Ross Lynch’s unflinching performance as the title character.

    Three biopics of note this year had mixed success critically or commercially.

    Battle of the Sexes was an entertaining film about closeted tennis star Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and her on- and off-the-court rivalry with male chauvinist Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) in 1973. The film scored with critics and viewers who saw it, but under-performed at the box office.

    Likewise, in the year that saw Wonder Woman lasso the box office, out filmmaker Angela Robinson’s origin story, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, failed to make much of an impact. It was a shame, because this story that recounts the polyamorous relationship the comic book’s creator Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) had with his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their lover/student, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), was a nifty film that deserved to be more widely seen and known.

    From Finland—where else?—came Tom of Finland, a shrewd biopic about the gay artist Touko Laaksonen, whose homoerotic drawings pleased and excited many gay men. The film resists being overly sexual, focusing more on the emotion than on the erotica.

    And while there was no overtly queer content in gay director Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck, the film, recounting two stories told fifty years apart, divided its small audience.

    Alas, arguably the only very prominent trans character on screen this year was Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez), a hit man “punished” with unwanted gender reassignment surgery in The Assignment. The film angered the trans community, and deservedly died at the box office.

    But the transgender community has only to wait until February, when the excellent Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman, starring trans actress Daniela Vega, is scheduled to open in the area. There is already buzz that Vega could be the first transgender actress nominated for an Oscar. We’ll find out on January 23.

    © 2017 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer