The country is currently fighting several threats, including the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice, as black and brown Americans continue to die at the hands of police.
June was once a month to celebrate — a time for music festivals, graduations and summer vacations … and Pride. This is a month when communities celebrate LGBTQ rights. But why June? How many of us remember that the reason Pride month is in June is to commiserate the Stonewall riots? And that those riots were due to police raids.
The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community. The riots were in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Fed up with constant police raids, brutal beatings and harassment, a handful of people fought back and took to the streets. Thousands joined the protests. The riots and marches lasted from June 28 to July 3, 1969. The first Pride Parade was one year later in NYC, called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March. Pride is now celebrated around the world.
This year, there’s been 24 days of marching in the streets demanding social justice. Pride parades won’t be happening, but there was a huge demonstration in support of Black Trans Lives in Brooklyn last week.
There are Pride celebrations and events streaming online. We can also watch films that showcase the need to still fight for gay liberation and acceptance. I’ve chosen a documentary to highlight the roots of the Pride parades, a fictionalized account of British queer history, a young adult love story with a twist and a tale of enduring love that will touch your heart.
MARSHA P. JOHNSON
I recommend the documentary “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” (2017, Netflix) directed by David France for some historical perspective. It’s gritty and has a lot of heart. Marsha P. Johnson was a trans woman celebrated for her activism and sweet demeanor. She and Sylvia Rivera were key figures in the gay liberation movement. They fought back during the police raid that started the Stonewall riots. They started STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) and helped young gender non-conforming and trans people with housing and activism.
The film goes back in time as advocate and fellow activist, Victoria Cruz, investigate Johnson’s last days. The archival footage reveals that tragic era in NYC. It’s interesting to see so many cassettes, video, music, tiny tapes from video cameras, and watch Cruz write down all the evidence in multiple notebooks. I found the soundtrack distracting and wished for more closure. It’s tragic that this story is still so relevant with black trans women being murdered in large numbers today, including 14 this year.
Drinks with Films Rating: 2 cocktails held just so while voguing out of 5
“Pride” (2014, Amazon) directed by Matthew Warchus is an uplifting film that’s based on an amazing-but-true story. In 1984, a gay rights group in London decided to fundraise for striking miners. Picking a town in Wales almost at random, they traveled to the village and tried to establish solidarity with the working class miners and their families. This outreach was not reciprocated at first and much of the humor of the film is watching the flamboyant queers interacting with desperate downtrodden men. With the young star from “1917,” George McKay, as our young closeted protagonist and a star-studded cast, including Andrew Scott (yes, the hot priest from “Fleabag”), Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Paddy Considine and Imelda Staunton, the acting is top-notch.
The subject matter is serious: mining strikes, police brutality, homophobia and gay Brits fighting for acceptance while AIDS was devastating the population. Yet the tone is kept light by focusing on the passion of the young crusaders and the relationships forged under duress. You’ll want to cheer when footage of the actual events depicted plays at the close of the film.
Drinks with Films Rating: 3 Welsh beers out of 5
‘THE HALF OF IT’
This young adult drama is elevated by an unusual plot and sensitive direction. “The Half of It” (2020, Netflix) directed by Alice Wu will be appreciated by anyone wanting a sweet twist to the standard coming-of-age story. Our young star is a brainy Chinese girl, Ellie (played by the expressive Leah Lewis) who in a “Cyrano de Bergerac” twist is hired to write letters and texts to the young woman of her dreams. Along the way, she develops a friendship with the doofus football player who shares her crush. All of the characters eventually reveal unfulfilled passions and interests that take them beyond the stereotypes they’ve been playing in high school. It’s refreshing to see a teen romance where same-sex attraction isn’t treated as tragic but as viable as any other crush.
Drinks with Films Rating: 3 shakes with shared straws in a high school hang-out diner out of 5
‘A SECRET LOVE’
Imagine if your favorite aunt was a baseball player in the 1940s and had been living with her friend for over 40 years. One day, in her 70s, acting as nervous as a schoolgirl, she reveals that she’s been lovers with that woman friend and is finally coming out of the closet. Terry Donahue was a professional player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II. Her grandnephew, Chris Bolan, spent six years recording this romantic tale of two Canadian girls who moved to Chicago to start a life together. True love across six decades had to stay hidden, first, because it was illegal in the eyes of the law and then later, so as to not jeopardize their relationships in conservative families. “A Secret Love” (2020, Netflix) directed by Chris Bolan is a film as dear as the two women you’ll come to love.
Drinks with Films Rating: 4 Coronas, sipped before taking their meds, out of 5