Watch: 5 Underrated Queer Filmmakers We're Watching this Pride Month

by Joshua Encinias

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 21, 2022

A scene from "Henry Gamble's Birthday Party"
A scene from "Henry Gamble's Birthday Party"  (Source:YouTube screenshot)

If you're looking for complex queer movies this Pride Month then look no further: we have the filmmakers for you. It goes without saying that despite queer artistry spanning centuries, many of our stories go unknown, unseen, and unloved. Those stories we know are often obscured by the closeted lives of their creators and only discovered long after their passing. Thankfully, we live in a time with the interest and resources to "resurrect" and appreciate all kinds of queer art.

For starters, we present five living, queer filmmakers with movies accessible across streaming services. Each filmmaker tells humane, funny, and enlightening stories—all told from their unique point of views from their place in the world. Their stories about the closet, coming out, religion, family, activism, and love can melt any stony heart if we give them a chance. This Pride, let's explore the rich movies and filmmakers ignored by the mainstream (even if they're darlings of world cinephile!).

Jonathan Wysocki

Filmmaker Jonathan Wysocki gives closeted, gay late bloomers a story of their own in his movie "Dramarama." Starring Ryan Murphy hottie Nico Greetham, the film follows a group of Christian drama nerds — including closeted teen Gene (Nick Pugliese) and his crush Oscar (Greetham) — at a murder mystery sleepover on the eve of their group parting ways for college. For inspiration, Wysocki's turns the clock back to 1994 and borrows from his teenage years in Escondido, California to write the story. After a night of confusing sexual tension, their sleepover ends on a graceful note before the friends leave each other. Prior to making his first feature-length film, Wysocki created award winning shorts and produced even more for others. He is helping shape the future of queer filmmaking as an advisor for Sundance Co//abs and as lecturer in film at Chapman University and Cal State Long Beach.

"Dramarama" is currently streaming on Hulu.

Stephen Cone

Stephen Cone hasn't released a feature film in five long years and we think it's time to assess what the filmmaker's already given us (as we hold out hope he makes more movies). Cone first came to my attention when his movie "Henry Gamble's Birthday Party" came out around the time I was coming out of the closet. Starring "Gossip Girl" actor Cole Doman and "Stranger Things" heartthrob Joe Keery, "Henry Gamble" queers evangelical faith without demonizing the people who practice it. The movie handles faulty people who claim absolute truth as gently as it handles its young, queer protagonist, Henry. Cone's humane approach mirrors filmmaking great Jonathan Demme and Christian author Marilynne Robinson.

"Henry Gamble's Birthday Party" is currently streaming on Hulu.

Robin Campillo

International films have a small audience in America unless they're art house juggernauts like Bong Joon-ho's 2019 film "Parasite." Despite that, one French, queer filmmaker who's work you should make an effort to see is Robin Campillo. As a member of ACT UP Paris, he spent his late twenties organizing and protesting and in 2017 he told their story. Storytelling and activism go hand-in-hand in Campillo's "BPM (Beats per Minute)." The movie follows Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), an ACT UP activist infected with HIV and Nathan (Arnaud Valois), a latecomer to the movement who ignored AIDS in the 1980s, but finally saw enough friends die to get involved. Sean and Nathan meet in the early 1990s and their firebrand relationship goes through the ups and downs of Sean's illness, staging protests and die-ins to fight for a cure, and enjoying the little time they have together. "BPM" will set your heart racing and your libido raging.

"BPM (Beats per Minute)" is currently streaming on Kanopy and is available to rent.

Terence Davies

While English filmmaker Terence Davies isn't underrated in the world of cinephiles, he's not a household name for most people who enjoy gay films. Most of Davies' movies center around his upbringing as a gay boy in Liverpool. His family was poor but rich in spirit and culture; one that cherished gathering to sing from the American Songbook. The ritual was close to religious for Davies, a lapsed Catholic, and his first movie "Distant Voices, Still Lives" depict how the ritual created a bond between a gay son and his hetero family. "Memory isn't linear—it's cyclical," says Davies, and this led him to make a non-linear, free associative narrative in 1988—long before Quentin Tarantino received credit for pioneering the style.

"Distant Voices, Still Lives" is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel.

Ofir Raul Graizer

If any queer filmmaker is underrated, by my estimation, it's Israeli director Ofir Raul Graizer. His 2018 film "The Cakemaker" was by all estimates one of the bigger international indie hits of the year in America, but Graizer and his movie received little fanfare. To dig in deeper: "The Cakemaker" won best picture at Israel's Ophir Awards (their Academy Awards) and was submitted as Israel's submission to the Oscars. But what is "The Cakemaker" about? A young German baker is having an affair with an Israeli businessman who frequently leaves his wife behind to work in Berlin. When the Israeli businessman dies in a car crash, the baker travels to Jerusalem to uncover the mysteries of his death and the life he left behind. What's more: the baker strikes up a friendship with the businessman's widow, under a fake identity, and begins baking for her cafe. What comes next is undeniably revelatory for everyone.

"The Cakemaker" is currently streaming on Kanopy and Dekkoo.