Streamers: Austin Pride Month Picks from OUTsider Fest’s Artistic Director Curran Nault
In honor of Austin Pride Month, we asked Curran Nault, author of Queercore: Queer Punk Media Subculture and the artistic director of Austin’s OUTsider Fest, to tell us about his journey with Queer cinema and make some home viewing recommendations. Read on for some exciting and unexpected streaming suggestions.
Compiling this list of LGBTQIA (“queer”) film recommendations, I am overcome with the options. Coming of age in the 1980s and early 90s, seeing myself on screen was a rare, but cherished, reality. Today, there are gems galore. If you are new to the wild world of queer cinema, I suggest starting with some celebrated contemporaries: TANGERINE (Sean Baker, 2015), MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins, 2016), A FANTASTIC WOMAN (Sebastiá Lelio, 2017), PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (Céline Sciamma, 2019) (side note scoop: Sciamma’s less overtly queer GIRLHOOD just might be the best film of the last decade)…Or, you might take an arthouse adventure with some queer classics: PARIS IS BURNING (Jennie Livingston, 1990), ORLANDO (Sally Potter, 1992), MA VIE EN ROSE (Alain Berliner, 1997), ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (Pedro Almodovar, 1999), TROPICAL MALADY (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004) (call OUT: TROPICAL MALADY is wild and weird in the richest senses of these words—an immersive feast for film fans)…And, don’t forget all the queerdos in the indie/underground, like: DYKETACTICS (Barbara Hammer, 1974), LOOKING FOR LANGSTON (Isaac Julien, 1989), NO SKIN OFF MY ASS (Bruce LaBruce, 1991), the shorts of Sadie Benning…
BUT, among the best of the bunch are these five flaming films. Occasionally overlooked, these are deep cuts with outlaw aesthetics and renegade hearts:
1983, Lizzie Borden (Kanopy)
In a future society (that looks a lot like our present reality), fierce (BIPOC) feminists band together in badassery to unleash their collective power against an onslaught of racist, patriarchal, capitalist [insert profanity of your choice]. Radical cinema at its most unruly, empowering and, sadly, still relevant. Tune in and get ready for the revolution.
1989, Marlon Riggs (Kanopy)
Before “intersectionality” was a buzzword, Marlon Riggs was schooling us all with the powerful poetics of this unconventional and affective documentary. With a pulse of the personal, TONGUES UNTIED delves deep into the traumas and joys that come with being black and gay in the US. This film awakened my conscience on first viewing and has continued to spark my soul with each subsequent screening.
1990s, GB Jones (VTape)
Wild, wacky and queer as punk, GB Jones is the brilliant brain behind queercore: a queer punk movement that ignited an outlaw community of creative queer castaways. Jones’ shorts are hard to find (you can purchase them via VTape). But, if they come to a screen near you, get that punk ass of yours out the door and into that theater seat! I am especially fond of THE TROUBLEMAKERS (1990), a scrappy tale of surveillance and shoplifting, and The YOYO GANG (1992), a DIY delight in which two girl gangs—the “Yo-Yo Gang” and the “Skateboard Bitches”—wage war. That is, until they realize it’s the sexist dudes who are the true devils.
2005, Auraeus Solito (Amazon)
This film, like its tender-hearted lead, is a lovable diamond in the rough. A coming-of-age tale set in an impoverished borough of Manila, young girlyboy Maximo comes into their queerness with the support of a fugitive family and a local policeman—despite the fact that the family and the policeman are at odds, on opposite sides of the law. Heartbreaking and heartfelt, this one’s a treasure to keep real close.
2007, Tsai Ming-liang (Amazon, DVD)
Tsai Ming-liang. I mean, Tsai Ming-liang! This master of mood, affective isolation and stretches of silence that will burrow into your brain is, in my opinion, the un(der)sung cinematic genius of our time. All of his films are worthy of your watch. But this one is, perhaps, the queerest on the surface (although, really, all of his films are queer, in ways both blatant and indirect). I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE is ostensibly about a man who comes to take care of a migrant day labor that has been beaten and left in the streets. But, like all Tsai’s films, it’s really about the profound alienations and absurdities of life itself. My queen!
2018, PJ Raval (AFS)
Best for last? Well, I should let you decide, as this one’s by my boo. So, yes, I’m biased. But, yes, of course it’s the best. And, extra “bonus,” you can screen it via AFS! This unsettling, but galvanizing, documentary details the 2014 murder of transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude by a US marine—and follows the fearless women who demand justice after her death.
PS – While I am on the subject of shameless plugs, I have an essay about CALL HER GANDA coming out in the January, 2021 edition of Transgender Studies Quarterly. I have written about MA VIE EN ROSE and THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS in the anthology, Mediated Girlhoods. And, my book, Queercore: Queer Punk Media Subculture, covers the work of GB Jones and Bruce LaBruce, among others.