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    Pride on Film

    By Jan Wahl–

    Jennie Livingston’s vibrant Paris Is Burning, the amazing Brokeback Mountain, the funny yet relevant But I’m a Cheerleader, and the incandescent Tangerine are just some of the LGBTQ-themed movies that fill us with pride and identification. But since cinema is such a personal art and craft, there are a couple that really speak to me.

    I originally saw Big Eden at the 2001 Frameline Film Festival. I left thrilled by its emotional power. It was a story that classic director Frank Capra would have told if he had a script about an ideal Montana town trying to play matchmaker to two men. Arye Gross portrays a successful gay Manhattan artist. When his grandfather has a stroke, he returns home to his tiny Montana town to care for him. He lusts for his hunky high school friend, but romance comes from a totally unexpected direction instead, with the help of the townsfolk. The film is so charming and hopeful that it has stayed with me all these years.

    Alice Wu’s Saving Face tells the story of a widow (Joan Chen) who is very proud of her surgeon daughter (Michelle Krusiec) and attempts over and over to set her up with various young men. This doctor is deeply in love with a charismatic dancer, beautifully played by Lynn Chen. Mom has a lot to learn. This is actually a rom com, a delicate and delightful romance. As much as I adore Brokeback Mountain and other poignant dramas, it is good to have laughs and happy endings.

    A perfect Pride film is a compelling, exciting documentary, The Celluloid Closet. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have compiled a comprehensive account of how gays and lesbians have been discriminated against and satirized by the very industry where they have been present since the days of silent film. We get excellent background and examples by Tony Curtis, Armistead Maupin, Susie Bright, Whoopi Goldberg, and Gore Vidal, with strong narration by Lily Tomlin. This is such a fabulous film and is one of my all-time favorites. It is a very important film that should be seen by everyone, gay or straight. It’s time for a sequel, guys!

    For a historical view of the Pride movement, seek out the British film Pride. This uplifting and spirited movie from 2014 shares the true story of a group of London-based gays and lesbians who team up with union organizers to fight the policies of Margaret Thatcher and battle for gay rights. This culture clash comedy drama stars Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton. Dominic West, and Andrew Scott as the activists who fight for change and awareness.

    I could go on and on, but instead let’s highlight this year’s amazing Frameline, the oldest Gay and Lesbian film festival ever. It is number 48 and thriving more than ever. Executive Director Allegra Madsen told me for the San Francisco Bay Times: “Frameline is representation for everyone, local as well as national and international. We are all over the city, from the Roxie to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Vogue and Parkway. We had a robust restoration project this year celebrating the 30th anniversary of Go Fish. Local activist Sally Gearheart (was featured in) a biopic screened at KQED studios. There was a brilliant French Italian drama Fragments of a Love to Life as well as a movie that turned the coming out tale on its head, Young Hearts.”

    There’s much more when you log into:

    Happy Pride, everyone!

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian and film critic on various broadcast outlets. She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Off the Wall
    Published on June 27, 2024