A collection of films and documentaries that help educate on racism, Black oppression and portray the queer Black experience…
Black LGBTQ+ stories have become more visible in recent years, but it’s more important than ever to support Black filmmakers as well as understand and celebrate Black queer lives.
From documentaries and biopics to romantic comedies and drama, here are ten films that should be considered mandatory viewing for anyone in the community.
Director: Barry Jenkins
Barry Jenkins masterpiece based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The award-winning film follows Chiron through three stages in the life: his youth, adolescence, and early adult life and explores the difficulties he faces with his sexuality and identity as a black man, including the physical and emotional abuse he endures.
Director: Dee Rees
Pariah is often referred to as “the female Moonlight” – despite the fact that the film predates it by five years. Pariah tells the story of Alike (Adepero Oduye), a 17-year-old a Brooklyn-based African American embracing her identity as a lesbian.
I Am Not Your Negro
Director: Raoul Peck
I Am Not Your Negro is a 2016 documentary film directed by Raoul Peck, based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House. Narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson, the Oscar nominated film explores the history of racism in the United States through Baldwin’s reminiscences of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as his personal observations of American history.
Director: Dee Rees
Queen Latifah stars in Bessie, the biopic about the life of Bessie Smith, the “Empress of Blues.” The film highlights the legendary Blues singer’s family life, internal struggles with her sexuality, industry battles, as well as her fight against racism and violent white supremacists.
Director: Wanuri Kahiu
Shamefully banned in its home country of Kenya, Rafiki is writer-director Wanuri Kahiu’s tender tale of first lesbian love between two teenage girls in the rough streets of Nairobi. Together, they build a relationship that must remain secret because homosexuality is illegal.
Naz and Maalik
Director: Jay Dockendorf
Two Muslim, gay, and closeted teenagers in New York’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood have a secret love affair that gets swept up amidst the surveillance of mosques. The film highlights the many twists and turns within a single day in the life of Naz and Maalik, as their petty schemes and alleyway kisses catch the haunting eye of an FBI operative.
Paris Is Burning
Director: Jennie Livingston
This iconic 1990 documentary looks at the ballroom scene in New York City during the 1980s. Jennie Livingston’s seminal documentary shines a light on the Black and hispanic queer men and trans women who invented the concepts of reading, shade and realness.
Director: Sara Jordenö
The unofficial sequel to Paris Is Burning, Kiki profiles LGBTQ youth coming of age in the ball scene. Directed by Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordenö, the documentary follows a group of queer youth of colour, as they unite to form a safe gathering place in their hometown of New York City.
The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson
Director: David France
The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson is a documentary that investigates the mysterious death (which to this day remains unsolved) of trans activist and Stonewall riots icon Marsha P. Johnson. In July 1992, Johnson was found dead in the Hudson River a few days after she’d told her friends that a car had been following her.
Director: Patrik-Ian Polk
A gay teenager in high school in a small Baptist town in Mississippi struggles with his religion and his sexuality. To make matters worse, his younger sister has been missing for years and it is tearing his family apart. The film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Larry Duplechan.