By Katherine Mantle
Originally published on Advocate.com July 08 2010 5:00 PM ET
People often ask my perspective on which movies I think are the most significant lesbian films ever released. As the founder of Wolfe, the world’s largest exclusive distributor of lesbian and gay movies, I have been working with lesbian film and lesbian filmmakers since 1985.
I’ve seen the landscape change drastically over that time — from the 1985 release of Donna Deitch’s Desert Hearts through the indie-lesbian film boom of the mid ’90s (which included Lisa Cholodenko’s High Art) though the amazing box office success of Bound to the upcoming July 9 theatrical release of Lisa’s latest project, The Kids Are All Right.
Ever since we were lucky enough to attend Lisa’s world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this past January, we’ve been describing The Kids Are All Right around the office as “the lesbian Brokeback.”
On the surface the films may seem to have nothing in common; but digging deeper it’s clear this is an apt comparison.
For a variety of reasons, The Kids Are All Right will be the most widely distributed lesbian-themed mainstream movie in history. Like that beloved yet sad gay cowboy movie, it has major stars in the gay roles: Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as lesbian moms. This ensures that the film will reach a wide audience. Most exciting of all — with its entertaining yet ultimately politically powerful message of putting a lesbian family front and center — the film will open hearts and minds very much like Brokeback did on its theatrical release.
Also like Brokeback,The Kids Are All Right isn’t striving to create a scenario where the gay characters are perfect. Rather, it’s telling an authentic story. In doing this, writer-director Lisa Cholodenko demonstrates that it's possible to speak to a gay and lesbian audience at the same time you're speaking to the straight mainstream.The other crucial component of the film’s landmark status is that The Kids Are All Right is being released by Focus Features. Focus is a company that has demonstrated an enormous commitment to releasing smart, complex, and thoughtful gay movies. Unlike many Hollywood studios and mainstream distributors, Focus Features genuinely seems to care about the gay and lesbian community. And yes, these are the folks who brought us not just Brokeback Mountain but also Milk.
This is truly a landmark moment in lesbian film history. We've come so far. A big-budget film with major movie stars playing lesbian roles. It's absolutely fantastic that this film is coming out in 2010 — 25 years after Wolfe first went into business. We've been around long enough now to see our stories fully enter the mainstream.
I am personally enormously grateful for this; and also gratified — that Wolfe continues to fulfill our vital role in supporting the careers of lesbian filmmakers (and all our LGBT and straight filmmaker allies as well). We’re very proud to say that we first distributed Lisa Cholodenko’s short film The Dinner Party way back in 1997 (just before she made her big splash with High Art). Watching our filmmakers advance in their careers is the most rewarding aspect of our work.
I want to encourage everyone to get out to the movies on the July 9 weekend to support Lisa’s movie and send the message to the powers that be in Hollywood (and to Lisa): Thank you, and we want more.