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Watchlist: Celebrating Pride through Film by Alex Davidson

photo of The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
24 Jun 2020
2 min read

2020 has been a difficult year for all of us, with queer people facing some unique challenges.

Lockdown has prevented LGBTQ+ people from meeting their communities face-to-face, threatening to further isolate those living with unsupportive, homophobic family members. Bars and clubs have closed while queer cultural events have either been cancelled or postponed – although some film festivals have made terrific efforts to recreate the magic of meeting up to see a film through online screenings and live Q&As.

Film has been a vital medium through which to document LGBTQ+ protests of the past

Social distancing has led to the cancellation of London’s Pride 2020, at a time when the fight for queer rights is as urgent as ever. The Black Lives Matter protests have united people against systematic racism, inspiring further rallies campaigning for the rights of black transgender people.

Film has been a vital medium through which to document LGBTQ+ protests of the past and push for greater rights in the present. Films such as Victim (1961) helped change attitudes to gay people and, many believe, led to the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in parts of the UK in 1967. Much-missed directors such as Marlon Riggs, Barbara Hammer, Lino Brocka and Derek Jarman created great film art that railed against institutional prejudice against LGBTQ+ people.

When the Barbican cinema re-opens, we will continue to show the best queer cinema from around the world and we can once again enjoy the unbeatable experience of watching great films together, on the big screen where they belong. Until then the following five films, all available to view online, show queer protest at its very best.


Before Stonewall (1984) on Peccadillo Player / Amazon / BFI Player / YouTube

Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg’s essential documentary tells the history of queer resistance from the 1920s to the 1969 riots, with insights from Audre Lorde, Allen Ginsberg and more. Watch the trailer


The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) on Netflix

A documentary that pays tribute to the black trans woman who played a key role in the Stonewall riots and explores the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death. Watch the trailer.


Breaking Free (2015) on Netflix

Queer activists across India, many from the Hijra community, rally against Section 377, a law introduced during the colonial era criminalising same-sex activity, in Sridhar Rangayan’s documentary. Watch the trailer.

120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017) on Curzon Home Cinema / Amazon / BFI Player

Robin Campillo’s masterful 90s-set drama throbs with the thrill of passion and protest, as Parisian activists combat political inaction towards the AIDS crisis. Watch the trailer.


Pride (2014) on Amazon / BFI Player / YouTube

This moving culture-clash comedy, about the gay activists who joined the 1984 miners’ strike in solidarity, perfectly blends poignancy, sharp humour and the power of protest. Watch the trailer.

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