Films to watch during LGBTQ History Month

Perry (Anthony Mackie) with Jim (Alex Burns) in "Brother to Brother."
CRITERION CHANNEL

By Gary M. Kramer

October is LGBTQ History Month, and there are some recent queer classics available for streaming. There are also some thrillers on demand for Halloween and the month further features two new documentaries with queer appeal. Here is a list of LGBTQ films to check out this month.

Brother to Brother

The Criterion Channel offers several LGBTQ films of note this month, including two auspicious directorial debuts by out gay filmmakers. Take a step back in history with “Brother to Brother,” writer/director Rodney Evans’ marvelous drama about Perry (Anthony Mackie), a gay college student, who connects with Harlem Renaissance writer Bruce Nugent (Roger Robinson). Evans lovingly depicts the 1920s (in nifty black and white scenes) and makes the contemporary scenes bristle as Perry navigates a relationship with Jim (Alex Burns), a white classmate. Evans’ drama is proudly militant as it explores the complexity of being Black and gay, examining racism and homophobia in both the past and present. The film includes snippets of the works of Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, among others, but it mostly serves as a valentine to Nugent, reminding viewers of the importance of his work.

The Delta

“The Delta” is Ira Sachs’ evocative portrait of two lives that intersect in Memphis. Lincoln (Shayne Gray) is a middle-class teenager who may have a girlfriend, but he cruises for sex with men at night. Lincoln is restless and uncomfortable, grappling with his same-sex desires, and Gray makes those feelings palpable. One night, he gets picked up by a man who takes him back to a hotel room for a charged encounter. Later, he meets Mihn (Thang Chan) aka John, and they drift off on Lincoln’s father’s boat, spending the night together until a situation later arises that separates them. “The Delta” then shifts and follows Minh’s story, leading to a surprising climax. Sachs shoots his grainy low-budget film on 16mm and in an observational style, emphasizing mood over narrative. It is a striking debut and worth watching — or rewatching.

There’s Someone Inside Your House

This teen horror film (out Oct. 6 on Netflix) is yet another entry in the “masked slasher” genre. This one, set in a Nebraska town, features a killer who prints 3D masks of the victims’ faces and stalks them, revealing their secrets before murdering them. So, the football player who hazed his gay teammate, Caleb (Burkely Duffield), and the class president who spouts hate speech are early goners. But what about Makani Young (Sydney Park), who transferred to Osborne High following a criminal incident from her past? “There’s Someone Inside Your House” features Alex (Asjha Cooper) and a non-binary teen, Darby (Jesse LaTourette), as two of Makani’s friends who help her try to figure out the killer’s identity. Could it be Oliver (Théodore Pellerin), the oddball classmate Makani is meeting in secret? As this diverting horror film builds its drama, it predictably features some jump scares, showcases a party scene (where a character makes drug paraphernalia out of an unusual collection of antiques), and ends up in a corn maze. If this thriller doesn’t break new ground, it does score points for putting LGBTQ and people of color in the major roles.

Knocking

Out in theaters Oct. 8 and on VOD Oct. 19, “Knocking” is an intense psychological thriller about Molly (Cecilia Milocco), a young woman haunted by her girlfriend’s death. After getting some treatment in a psychological facility, Molly moves into an apartment building where she is disturbed by incessant knocking. She soon comes to believe that a woman is trapped and at risk, however, no one believes her. As Molly spirals further into despair, she repeatedly calls the police, sees things that may not be real, and even forces her way into a neighbor’s apartment (a terrific scene). “Knocking” eventually reveals the truth, and while one could argue the film suggests Molly’s gender (and sexuality) are at the root of her trauma and mental condition — men seem to be at the cause of her frustration — this taut drama delivers.

Live at Mister Kelly’s

This documentary (available on demand Oct. 12) is a valentine to a Chicago supper club that hosted a who’s who of jazz, music, and comedy talents in the decades between World War II and Watergate. Barbra Streisand waxes nostalgic about performing at Mister Kelly’s before an early morning photo shoot she did for her album “People.” Lily Tomlin reflects on fighting for gender equality at the bar — where women couldn’t sit alone. Bruce Vilanch recalls the time a bra-less Bette Midler had a wardrobe malfunction. And Lainie Kazan’s performance was postponed when the place caught fire during her opening act. The anecdotes, interviews, photos, archival footage, performance clips, and narration (by Bill Kurtis) are all fond. This loving documentary pays homage to a club that broke down race, class, and gender rules.

Everything at Once

Out gay Chilean writer/director Alberto Fuguet’s affectionate documentary (available Oct. 19 on Amazon, Dekkoo, TLAGay.com, Vimeo, and iTunes) introduces viewers to Paco and Manolo, the Barcelona-based creators and publishers of “Kink,” a magazine of nude male photography. The filmmaker reveals the couple’s process of meeting the young men they shoot and often find themselves too shy to tell the models to get naked. Once they do, however, the magic begins, and Fuguet takes viewers on several photo sessions, some of which involve unsimulated sex and masturbation. But it is all tastefully done. There are hundreds of images on display but what is most provocative — even refreshing — is the candor of Paco and Manolo, who have been together 30 years, as well as the models who all seem incredibly shy and modest about what they are doing. “Everything at Once” is a fantastic film that celebrates these men who celebrate the male nude.

This story first appeared in our sister publication, Gay City News

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