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    16 Amazing Queer BIPOC Films You Need To Watch ASAP

    Here are some LGBTQ+ films that you probably never heard of with everything you need about the intersectionality of sexual identity and culture.

    Tom Hanks holding his Best Actor Oscar for Philadelphia
    Steven D Starr / Corbis via Getty Images

    So you've seen a handful of Academy Award-winning performances from movies of heterosexual, cis-gendered men and women pretending to be lesbian, gay, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ+). Maybe even your new favorite TV show has one questionably gay character. 

    It's time to do better. As you would see with recent comments from misinformed comedians like Dave Chapelle in his newest Netflix special, we seem to forget the importance of intersectionality.

    LGBTQ+ representation in media has continued to rise in recent years, with recognition entering spaces never seen before. Representation improves, but the diversity within this present community is lacking.

    There is a lack of colorful representation in this rainbow on the big screen. Queer Black, Indigenous, and people of color, or "QBIPOC" are often omitted from the conversation of LGBTQ+ representation, while navigating the struggle of their oppressed ethnicity, culture, and their persecuted sexual identities. The desire to remain faithful to where they come from creates a battle against who they choose to love.

    If you don't believe me, let me remind you of the epic fail of one of the most important nights of QBIPOC representation in cinematic history.

    For decades, many filmmakers attempted to shed light on the forgotten conversations of the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, and sexuality. These overlooked films might not all involve queer actors (that needs to change), but they introduce the paradox of BIPOC inclusivity and sexuality. You might have missed these movies. Allow me to help you out.

    Here's my list of the 16 queer BIPOC films you need to watch immediately:

    1. The Watermelon Woman (1996)

    First Run Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

    The Watermelon Woman is an American romantic comedy-drama film following aspiring filmmaker Cheryl Dunye's quest to create a movie about a mysterious Black actor from an era when Black women portrayed the racist mammy stereotype. Unfortunately, the actor in question is credited only as "The Watermelon Woman." In Cheryl's journey to reveal the woman's true identity, she uncovers an untold story of forbidden love that highlights her struggle as a Black lesbian woman. The Watermelon Woman is written, directed, and edited by the star Cheryl Dunye, a queer Black woman. It deserves praise for that alone.

    2. Dear Ex (2018)

    Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Dear Ex is a Taiwanese dark comedy about Song Cheng-xi (Joseph Huang), a teenager who tragically becomes the source of tension between Liu San-lian (Hsieh Ying-xuan), his neglected mother, and his deceased father's secret lover named Jay (Roy Chiu). The film portrays a story of the painful truths of infidelity, cultural tradition, and parenthood. While it's not a feel-good after-school special, the film highlights the complexity of a traditional family exposed to a secret queer relationship.

    3. The Third Party (2016)

    image of a woman looking away
    ABS-CBN Star Cinema

    The Third Party is a Filipino romantic comedy about two ex-lovers, the cosmetic surgeon Max Labrador (Sam Milby) and the aspiring fashion designer Andi Medina (Angel Locsin). When the pair attempt to keep their friendship alive after the breakup, their new life situations get in the way. Max is involved in a new relationship with Christian Pilar (Zanjoe Marudo), the hunky pediatrician, and Andi becomes an abandoned pregnant mother. The trio come together to form a dysfunctional family addressing their relationship with their own identities and friendship. The Third Party is a more playful portrait of the presentation of the fluidity within sexuality and culture.

    4. Tangerine (2015)

    from left: Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez
    Magnolia Pictures / Everett Collection

    Tangerine follows the recently incarcerated transgender sex worker Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez). After her fellow trans sex worker Alexandra (Mya Taylor) reveals that Sin-Dee's boyfriend and pimp, Chester (James Ransone), is cheating on her, she embarks on a mission to find him and the mysterious woman on the busy streets of Los Angeles. The conclusion reveals a series of unexpected twists and turns to shed light on a world typically unseen in mainstream culture. Before the critical success of shows like FX's Pose, trans women of color representation was close to nonexistent. 

    5. Pariah (2011)

    from left: Kim Wayans, Adepero Oduye,
    Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Pariah is an American drama written and directed by Dee Rees (Mudbound, Bessie) about 17-year-old Alike (Adepero Oduye). She battles accepting her identity as a butch lesbian and her mother's (Kim Wayans) extreme disapproval of her lifestyle and best friend Laura (Pernell Walker). In retaliation, her mother forces her to befriend the church-going Bina (Aasha Davis) in hopes of changing her daughter's influences. However, the friendship between Alike and Bina grows into something else and creates more problems for everybody involved. The award-winning film is a feature-length expansion of Rees' short film, which also received several accolades. 

    6. Moonlight (2016)

    from left: Jharrel Jerome, Ashton Sanders,
    David Bornfriend/ © A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Moonlight is an Academy Award-winning coming-of-age drama directed by Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk, The Underground Railroad). Jenkins' award-winning turn is based on the unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The film follows the life of Chiron through three stages of life: childhood, teenage years, and adulthood. With the guidance of a wise drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend (Janelle Monae), Chiron struggles with the trauma of his suppressed feelings and the neglect of his drug-addicted mother (Naomie Harris). There are not enough flowers in the world to give Jenkins the bravery of telling a story that intertwines queer and street culture, two worlds that remain engulfed in violent opposition.

    7. Fire (1996)


    Fire is the first installment of Indian director Deepa Mehta's Elements trilogy, which focuses on the controversial social issues of India's patriarchal culture. The film is the story of two women entangled in the tradition and loyalty of broken marriages. The infertile Radha (Shabana Azmi) confides in her sister-in-law, Sita (Nandita Das), a neglected wife who accepts her husband's infidelity in turn for peace. The two women break a strict tradition by forming an unbreakable bond of forbidden love and sexuality. Mehta's other two films, Earth and Water, continue the stories of forbidden love — one of the first mainstream Bollywood films to portray homosexuality.

    8. Mosquita y Mari (2012)

    l-r: Fenessa Pineda, Venecia Troncoso
    Magela Crosignani / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Mosquita y Mari is a coming-of-age film of two young women navigating friendship and unrequited love from different sides of life and privilege. A school incident brings together the sheltered Yolanda Olveros (Fenessa Pineda) and the street-wise Mari Rodriguez, two girls who couldn't be more different. They learn from each other, leading to an unspoken love that challenges the reality of their friendship. It's films like Aurora Guerrero's Mosquita y Mari that paved the way for provocative teen romances like Love, Simon (2018).

    9. Beautiful Boxer (2003)

    two people boxing
    GMM Pictures Co. / AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo

    Beautiful Boxer is a Thai biographical film about Parinya Charoenphol, a famous trans woman Muay Thai fighter, actor, and model. Actor Asanee Suwan portrays Charoenphol's story and their relationship with their parents, society, and the passion for the art of Muay Thai fighting. Charoenphol is a young outsider blossoming into a celebrated fighter despite being in and out of the ring to accept one's truth against all odds. The masculine world of Thai boxing versus the femininity of Charoenphol's identity breaks all notions of absolutes regarding gender and sexuality.

    10. Mississippi Damned (2009)

    image of a woman crying
    Morgan's Mark /

    Tina Mabry's directorial debut, Mississippi Damned, is an American drama film based on her childhood in the late-20th-century Mississippi South. The tragic tale follows a family of three cousins, the closeted lesbian Leigh Peterson (Chasity Kershal Hammitte), her younger sister Kari (Tessa Thompson), a talented musician, and their cousin Sammy Stone (Malcolm Goodwin), a promising basketball player. Their hopes and ambitions are brought to a halt over the years due to years of physical and sexual abuse and destructive family dynamics. The story is a painful truth of generational trauma and its effects on individual freedom within the family structure.

    11. Saving Face (2004)

    image of a woman looking outside
    Destination Films / AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo

    Saving Face is a romantic comedy about Dr. Wilhelmina "Wil" Pang (Michelle Krusiec), a Chinese American surgeon in New York City, and her closeted relationship with the aspiring dancer Vivian Shing (Vivian Shing). One person most oblivious to Wil's relationship is her mother, Hwei-lang Gao (Joan Chen), with her own secret. The mother and daughter relationship is tested by their need to respect tradition, family, and expectations of Chinese women in society. Their struggle: a level of sexuality and desire customarily left out of the narrative of a woman of strict tradition. Director Alice Wu was inspired to adapt her unfinished novel into a film based on her own experiences of coming out to her mother.

    12. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

    Gordon Warnecke, Daniel Day-Lewis, standing outside looking at each other
    Orion Pictures/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

    My Beautiful Laundrette is a British comedy-drama set in 1980s London, amid the turmoil between the Pakistani and English population. The film follows Omar Ali (Gordon Warnecke), a young Pakistani man who becomes the caretaker of his uncle's laundrette in order to support his troubled father. When Omar is reunited with his childhood friend, the street ruffian Johnny Burfoot (Daniel Day-Lewis), he is reminded of their feelings for each other. He becomes willing to sacrifice all expectations and tradition for their forbidden love. Despite critical acclaim, the film doesn't receive the recognition it deserves, since it does involve one of the most celebrated, award-winning actors in cinematic history in Daniel Day-Lewis.

    13. O Fantasma (2000)

    image of a man taking a shower
    Rosa Filmes / Courtesy Everett Collection

    O Fantasma is a Portuguese erotic drama about an attractive graveyard shift trash collector Sérgio (Ricardo Meneses). After rejecting the interests of his beautiful coworker Fátima (Beatriz Torcato), Sergio descends into a life of violence and debauchery around the city of Lisbon, fueled by his sadistic passion and masochistic urges. This isn't a film to watch with the family, as it deals with a darker side of sexuality and indulges often let out of the topics of conversations around identity.

    14. Happy Together (1997)

    image of a man resting his head on another man in a car
    Kino International / ©Kino International/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Happy Together is a Hong Kong romantic drama of the tumultuous relationship of Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) and Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai). They fall in and out of passionate love until a trip to Argentina forces them to face all the reality. Each is forced to live on the brink of survival in a foreign land when their lack of accountability, distrust of each other, and unreachable desire leave them stranded in what is supposed to be a tropical getaway. Director Wong-Kar-wai is no stranger to unconventionally artistic storytelling. This award-winning movie is considered one of the greatest films of Queer New Wave Cinema

    15. Strawberry and Chocolate (1994)

    from left: Vladimir Cruz, Mirta Ibarra,
    Miramax / courtesy: Everett Collection

    Strawberry and Chocolate is a Cuban film based on Senel Paz's short story, "The Wolf, the Forest, and the New Man." The story takes place in 1979 Havana, following student David (Vladimir Cruz) and his militant classmate Miguel plotting a "honey trap" to spy on Diego (Jorge Perugorría), a gay artist. His criticism and sentiment for the Communist movement can spell trouble for Fidel Castro's regime. A relationship based on deception transforms into something more than either person expected. The political commentary of this film reminds the audience of the detrimental role that misguided governments play in the well-being of LGBTQ+ communities.

    16. Looking for Langston (1989)

    a man laughing while looking at the screen
    British Film Institute (BFI)

    Looking for Langston is a British black and white film synthesizing authentic archival footage of the 1920s Harlem renaissance with impressionistic visuals celebrating the complexities of the gay Black experience. The artistic and cultural significance of the period through the words of celebrated poets Langston Hughes, Richard Bruce Nugent, James Baldwin, Essex Hemphill, and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe tell a story of the traumatic struggle between acceptance of one's own oppressed community and the forces that subjugate them all. This avant-garde piece is followed with controversy, depicting the unspoken life of one of the world's most celebrated poets of color.