LGBT Fall 2017 Film Preview

Queer champions set the tone for fall's film slate.

This year’s LGBT fall film slate is packed with a variety of releases, with one thematic element that stands out the most: Heroism. From the real-life struggles of bisexual tennis great Billie Jean King to the fictional animated effeminate bull, Ferdinand; from the true polyamorous creators of Wonder Woman, to the pistol-packing butch Mexican torch singer—this amazing slate of biographical features and documentaries offers some much-needed inspiration to guide us through the rest of the year.

Baby Steps

August 15 on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD
Billed as being a follow up to Ang Lee’s groundbreaking 1993 gay romance, The Wedding Banquet, this 2015 feature is finally being released in the U.S. after its release in Taiwan. Baby Steps is written and directed by Taiwanese-American actor Barney Cheng who also stars as Danny, a gay man trying to have a baby with his American boyfriend via international surrogacy. Co-starring as Danny’s meddling mom is none other than legendary Chinese star Grace Guei (who also played the mom in The Wedding Banquet).

Baby Steps Trailer from Barney Cheng on Vimeo.

The Wound

August 16 at Film Forum in NYC and September 8 at the Laemmle Royal in LA.
Winner of the International Grand Jury Prize at Outfest and Best First Feature Award at Frameline this South African drama unfolds an intense and disturbing account of the Xhosa coming-of-age circumcision ritual for teenage boys. Openly gay South African singer-songwriter Nakhane Toure stars as Xolani, who guides young Kwanda from Johannesberg through the rite of passage. But what will happen when Kwanda discovers Xolani’s sexuality? Warning: The film has been described as “brimming with fear and violence” (and an audience member actually fainted during the film’s San Francisco premiere).

Beach Rats

August 25 in select theaters
Another intense teenage drama, Beach Rats took home the Best Directing Award at Sundance and Best Screenplay Award at Outfest this year for its gritty portrayal of Brooklyn teen Frankie (Harris Dickinson in a breakout performance) who grapples with his sexuality amidst the backdrop of his macho teen friend group. Shot on 16mm film, Beach Rats achieves a unique look and feel reminiscent of the New Queer Cinema of the early ’90s.

Strong Island

September 15 in select theaters
Strong Island is yet another highly acclaimed queer release from this year’s Sundance slate. In this uniquely personal memoir documentary, trans filmmaker Yance Ford investigates his brother’s 1992 murder. As Ford portrays the tragic failure of the judicial system to bring justice in the murder of a black man he simultaneously explores the grief of his family. Winner of a Special Jury Prize at Sundance and the Frameline Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary.

Strong Island Trailer from Louverture Films on Vimeo.

Battle of the Sexes

September 22 in limited theatrical release
Battle of the Sexes serves up a big-budget dramatization of all the hullaballoo that accompanied the legendary 1973 tennis match between women’s world champion Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone) and former men’s champ, and self-described male chauvinist pig, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). From the trailer it looks like the film puts King’s sexuality front and center (Andrea Riseborough co-stars as her love interest Marilyn Barnett).

Cherry Pop

September 22 on DVD and VOD
Caldwell Tidicue, aka Bob the Drag Queen (Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 8 winner) stars in this tale of a crazy night at a drag club where the star of the show refuses to come out of her dressing room. The latest in the wave of narrative features capitalizing on RPDR mania (see also: Hurricane Bianca).

The Ornothologist

October 3 on DVD and VOD
In this latest film from Portuguese badboy João Pedro Rodrigues (Two Drifters, O Fantasma) a hunky lone ornithologist (Paul Hamy) is caught up in a mysterious adventure after being stranded in the wilderness. The film has earned a slew of international awards while being hailed as a provocative and challenging cinematic masterpiece (and yes, it also includes a full-frontal gay sex scene).

Chavela

October 4 at Film Forum in NYC; October 6 at the Nuart in LA and the Opera Plaza in San Francisco.
Run, don’t walk—and bring everyone you know to see the film recently hailed by The Guardian as: “Donald Trump’s ultimate nightmare—a Mexican lesbian diva who can wring your very soul.” She was a primary muse for gay auteur Pedro Almodovar, she supposedly slept with Frida Kahlo, she recorded more than 80 albums and was hailed as a legend. The incredibly talented Mexican butch lesbian singer Chavela Vargas is lovingly profiled in this exceptional documentary, which took home Best Documentary awards from both Frameline and Outfest.

The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin

October 6 at the Quad in New York City. Stay tuned for additional dates and cities.
A bouncy jaunt through the truly fascinating life of Tales of the City creator Armistead Maupin. This excellently constructed tale is packed with great interviews—including Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis and Sir Ian McKellen. Of course it is Armistead himself who is the best storyteller of all and he does not disappoint. Another inspiring bio-doc from the filmmaking team who brought us To Be Takei.

God’s Own Country

October 27 in limited release
Believe it or not—the comparisons to Brokeback Mountain don’t even do justice to this exquisite British romantic drama about unexpected love between two sheepherders in Yorkshire. Winner of the Audience Award at Frameline for Best Narrative Feature.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

October 27 in limited release
This exciting new romantic drama from writer-director Angela Robinson (DEBS, Girl Trash) will world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September before the film’s late October release. Professor Marston & The Wonder Women stars Luke Evans as the real life Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston who created the comic book character of Wonder Woman in 1941. Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote co-star as Marston’s wife Elizabeth and their lover Olive. In the real-life story Professor Marston died in 1947, after which Elizabeth and Olive stayed together. Wonder Woman, polyamory and lesbianism all in one movie—sign me up.

A Date for Mad Mary

November on DVD and VOD
In this Irish lesbian indie, young Mary McArdle returns to her hometown to serve as maid of honor for her best friend Charlene’s wedding. Mary’s desperate efforts to secure a date for the wedding all come to naught — but then she meets Jess, the lesbian wedding photographer.

Call Me By Your Name

November 24 in limited release
It’s hard to say what’s most exciting about this film. Since premiering at Sundance in January it has racked up a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating (yes, that means all the critics love it). It’s based on the exquisite gay coming-of-age novel by Andre Aciman, and the screenplay is by James Ivory (Maurice, etc.). It co-stars Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet. Set in 1983, Call Me By Your Name unfolds the attraction between Elio, an American-Italian teen who lives with his family at their villa in Northern Italy and Oliver, the American student who comes to live with them for the summer.

Princess Cyd

December on DVD & VOD
Princess Cyd follows 16-year-old athlete Cyd Loughlin (Jessie Pinnick) while visiting her novelist aunt (Rebecca Spence) in Chicago over the summer. Eager to escape life with her depressive single father, Cyd falls for a girl in the neighborhood, while she and her aunt gently challenge each other in the realms of sex and spirit.

Princess Cyd

Dream Boat

December 5 on VOD
This German-produced documentary follows five very different gay men on a one-week European gay cruise. Fifty-something Philippe from France in his wheelchair; Austrian HIV-positive photographer Martin; Dipankar, the 32-year-old Indian accounts manager; Ramzi, the Palestinian who now lives in Belgium with his boyfriend and Marek, the Polish personal trainer. Looking for connection each of them share their hopes and dreams.

Ferdinand

December 15 in wide release
Munro Leaf’s classic children’s book has held queer resonance for generations of sensitive children. The 1938 Oscar-winning animated short did a wonderful job portraying the uncharacteristically gentle Ferdinand who spends his time sniffing flowers rather than roughhousing with his fellow young bulls. At the very least we’re anticipating a queer allegory here. Got to love the cast (including John Cena and Kate McKinnon) and the film’s tagline: “You can’t judge a bull by its cover.”

The Greatest Showman

December 25 in wide release.
Not actually gay-themed but sure to have significant queer appeal, The Greatest Showman is an original musical from Academy Award® Winning duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen) that tells the sensational tale of P.T. Barnum. Starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, and Zendaya.

Jenni Olson is one of the world's leading experts on LGBT cinema history and a co-founder of PlanetOut.com. Her latest film project is "The Royal Road."
@JenniOlsonSF