We are almost nearing the end of the month replete with carnivalesque festivities celebrating the queer community. June is celebrated as Pride Month to celebrate persons who defy the heteronormative binaries and their identities and the struggle of the LGBTQIA+ community.
In addition to the scripted queer shows, there are a growing number of documentary films and shows that go through the pages of history re-examining the rights and visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community. The projects chronicle everything—their fight for their rights during the pre-Stonewall era, the effects of the AIDS epidemic on the community and the present-day media representation.
Documentaries like PS Burn This Letter Please, Portrait of Jason and The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson take the viewers back in time and highlight queer movements throughout history while diving deeper into the lives of queer icons.
End the month by learning about the history of how queer communities set out to reclaim spaces for themselves and here’s a list of some of the best documentaries you should watch!
Best Documentaries On Pride History
Stonewall Uprising tops the list of the documentaries for it documents the Stonewall Riots that started with a police raid on the Stonewall Inn after which the queer community was compelled to stand up for their rights. Because of the riots, June month, today is celebrated as Pride.
The 2010 documentary by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner is replete with archival footage from the events preceding the uprising, the raid and riots and the aftermath of it. Seen as one of the crucial events for the LGBTQIA+ Civil Rights Movement, the documentary lays bare societal attitudes towards homosexuals and what eventually led to the growth of pride marches and homosexual rights organisations.
The film also features interviews of the participants and eyewitnesses of the riots and the law enforcement personnel involved in the raid that precipitated the riots.
A Secret Love
For the unversed, this Netflix documentary is a must-watch! The sentimental documentary directed by Chris Bolan explores the lives of former baseball player Terry Donahue and her partner Pat Henschel.
Although a film based on Donahue’s time as a baseball player led to the creation of 1992 A League of Their Own, but the documentary focuses on Donahue’s seven-decades-long romance with Henschel. The couple finally tells their truth from the time they met until they came out.
The documentary ends on a celebratory note as the couple holds an honest-to-goodness wedding at their old-age facility home with close family and friends in attendance.
Paris Is Burning
The ground-breaking film captures the colourful 1980s Harlem drag-ball culture through the perspective of African American and Latinx New York residents.
Paris Is Burning is a seven-year documentary that provides an intimate image of rival fashion “houses,” from heated trophy hunts to house mothers providing nutrition in a world rife with homophobia, transphobia, racism, AIDS, and poverty.
The documentary follows iconic drag queens and trans women Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey and Venus Xtravaganza. It also celebrates the thrill of movement, the force of eloquence and the pull the community had. The documentary is available on Apple Tv.
The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson
Born Malcolm Michaels Jr, Marsha P Johnson was an American gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen. Johnson, known as ‘Rosa Parks of the LGBTQIA+ Movement’ played a pivotal role in the Stonewall Riots of 1969 alongside other queer icons like Sylvia Rivera and others.
The co-founder of STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries), a self-proclaimed drag queen, community leader and pioneer of the gay liberation movement lived a life of meaning while fighting for the rights of queer persons.
The life and tragic death of this icon is captured in the Netflix documentary by David France.
PS Burn This Letter Please
Michal Seligman and Jennifer Teixeira directorial, the documentary, like the previous one is based on the drag community of New York City. PS Burn This Letter Please focuses on the investigation that was launched into a previously unknown chapter of queer history which was sparked by letters hidden for six decades.
The letters describe an era in NYC when “masquerading” as a woman resulted in swift and severe punishment. The documentary focuses on the government’s attempt to eliminate trans persons from the bygone era, the attempt to the erasure of their existence and their stories.
“These letters gave extremely detailed accounts of their lives, their loves, their fears and their gowns—as well as their sexual conquests! Many times I felt as though I shouldn’t be reading these discovered letters, as they are so incredibly personal,” Craig Olsen, the producer of the documentary was quoted as saying in a report. This is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
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