Having a hard day, week, or 500+ days? It's understandable. Times are tough for marginalized communities, with hard-won rights and protections under assault seemingly every minute. While it's important to resist and fight against oppression, it is also important to engage in self-care. And movies, as part of the entertainment industry, can offer a much-needed respite from the ugliness of reality.
To curate a list of escapist fare, The Advocate asked the filmmakers of the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival for recommendations on movies that give them laughter, hope, and joy. See them below. Then head on over to Outfest (July 12-22) for a series of films, panels, and events to inspire you in the fight moving forward.
"This film restores faith in humanity and revitalizes hope in a seemingly bleak future. It reminds us of how art that is born from the source of the wound is a type of activism that creates safety for us when the world doesn’t. Mr. Rogers somehow manages to transcend gender, sexuality, race, class, etc., to give us the message that we are worthy of love just by being born. It's impossible to watch this movie without smiling." — Lisa Donato (There You Are)
"Because we all have to laugh at these 'Christian' conservatives who don’t have a clue." —Bola Ogun (Are We Good Parents?)
"Because it's a lighthearted take on a very serious subject matter. It's filled with pointed jokes about gender performance along with a strong message of self-acceptance. I've loved it ever since I was a teenager coming out in the late '90s." —Laura Madalinski (Two in the Bush: a Love Story)
"Kal Ho Naa Ho is a Bollywood love story set in New York City. It is escapist in the sense that the love story is charming, beautiful, and funny; the dancing, is vibrant, colorful, and energetic; and the melodrama is heart-wrenching, poignant, and worth the film. It's a beautiful story about valuing what you have and using what is before you to achieve greatness." —Shant Joshi (Porcupine Lake)
"Love, Simon is a great film. A fun romcom that's almost a step back into the John Hughes era. I think one reason why we really connected to [it] is because we're reminded of teenagers Isaac and Pascal in our film Room to Grow. We witnessed the two of them fall for one another while singing together in chorus, and much like Love, Simon, it was a beautiful thing." —Matt Alber and Jon Garcia (Room to Grow)
"There's a sequence in Gentleman Prefer Blondes where Jane Russell sings 'Anyone Here for Love' while roaming through a gymnasium filled with barely clothed men exercising and then it ends with everyone jumping into a pool. And while I have never been muscle gay — going to the gym to pick someone up — I do firmly believe in musical numbers mixed with homoeroticism. So go ahead and watch that number — then, for God sakes, go and vote!" —Dan Kitrosser (We the Animals)
"Because who doesn't love lesbians and wrestling?" —Laura Madalinski (Two in the Bush: A Love Story)
"It's a romantic comedy about a Pakistani Muslim woman who takes care of her TV-obsessed mother and copes by taking lucha-style wrestling. She falls in love with a Mexican woman who runs a bookstore and teaches her more about the history of luchadores. Unlike the negative perception of immigrants painted by the U.S. administration, Signature Move depicts Muslims and Mexicans through a compassionate, comedic, and loving lens. The film was written and directed by women, and the brilliant cast is predominantly women of color. And funny. This film is laugh-out-loud hilarious and entertaining from beginning to end. OK, OK – I may have cowritten the script, but it’s still in my top favorite movies of all time." —Lisa Donato (Foxy Trot)
"Because you know you know all the lines, and if you don't, 'You're terrible, Muriel!' Also, Toni Colette is pitch-perfect as Muriel, and if you're running away from the awful world around us right now, Muriel will take you with her and you might even feel a little stronger by the end credits. Also, that 'Waterloo' scene..." —H.P. Mendoza (Bitter Melon)
"Christopher Guest’s Waiting for Guffman or Leos Carax’s Merde. Christopher Guest has such a magic about his films that no matter the mood I’m in, I will always laugh out loud. Merde is so satisfyingly gruesome, beautiful, and wrong it gets my heart pumping every time I watch it. Also, Saló (120 Days of Sodom) is always a great distraction filled with all types of horrendously unabashed debauchery." —Gianna Gianna (Crying Game)
"Evening Shadows is a Bollywood-style Indian feature film about a son and mother going on a road trip where he comes out to her. The film is about how the mother, a woman steeped in conservative traditions and social mores and voiceless in a patriarchal society, stands up to her son. Along with inherent drama, there is a lot of humor and chutzpah, which makes the film an easy, engaging viewing, transporting the audience into a small town in southern India. The audience is immersed in a different world and enjoys the simple story of a family caught in a time warp." —Sridhar Rangayan (Evening Shadows)
"The films of Busby Berkeley, with their flamboyant dance fantasies, are completely mesmerizing and will help you forget these troubled times as they did in the 1930s for Americans who were suffering through the Depression and the rise of fascism in Europe. Incredible images and editing. The costumes are amazing, and so is the choreography. Enjoy!" —Caroline Berler (Dykes, Camera, Action!)
"One of the richest men in the world goes undercover in an NYC department store that he owns to break up a secret group of employees who are unionizing for better working conditions. He meets shoe clerk Jean Arthur (never better), and he slowly discovers the humanity of the working poor and what’s been missing in his life. It is a hilarious and touching and perfectly crafted film that speaks to our divisive times and to an idealized but hopeful view of what America could be." —Jeff Kaufman (Every Act of Life)
"There’s nothing like queers and their dogs, and this movie doesn’t hold back in showing the ever emotional peaks and valleys of raising a competitive dog. Plus, Jane Lynch and Jennifer Coolidge start a magazine called American Bitch for lesbians and their dogs. I think that’s something we can all get behind." —Erica Rose (Girl Talk)
"Because it represents so well the confusion about being attracted to a same-sex person when you are a teenager. Movies like these could be such an escape or inspiration for young people who are suffering or confused to be who they really are, because they can watch people like them." —Ruth Caudeli (Eva+Candela)
"One of the reasons we made Two in the Bush: A Love Story was to give the queer community more playful stories with happy endings. We wanted to make a film about bisexuality, polyamory, and sex work in a way that felt loving and fun. A single film can't speak to all experiences in our diverse and vibrant community, so I would love to see more stories for our trans and nonbinary members, and for queer people of color. They are not films, but I would strongly recommend some of the web series from OpenTV, specifically Brown Girls, Brujos, and The T." —Laura Madalinski (Two in the Bush: A Love Story)
"An action-animation that takes place in a world that questions the definitions of individual and group, humanity and machine, body and consciousness. Deep questions that can easily relate to queer issues, immersed in a frenetic and beautiful film. A unique work." —Filipe Matzembacher (Hard Paint)
"It's a laugh-out-loud refreshing, revolutionary, and much-needed revision of the prevailing history, which painted Emily Dickinson — a passionate poet who was actually writing to her lifelong love, Susan —as a cold recluse. By erasing Susan's names from the texts, the words were drained of their color and meaning. This film should be in every school in America, and it also makes for a great night out." —Ondi Timoner (Mapplethorpe)
"Honestly, during this day and age watching any LGBTQ+ film is necessary as an act of solidarity, protest, and progression. We can't afford to move backward, so we have to make sure we can protect the tools that allow us to tell our stories and educate general audiences. Art and film are important vehicles for cultural change and understanding." ± PJ Raval (Call Her Ganda)
On that note, see the full schedule of the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival at Outfest.org.