Film

From Coming Out Tales to Epic Romances: 10 Films To Celebrate Lesbian Visibility Day

Lead Photo: 'Signature Move.' Courtesy of Outfest
'Signature Move.' Courtesy of Outfest

Lists of LGBTQ films can sometimes lean too heavily on the “G.” Stories about men falling in love with other men are plentiful — even in Latin America where such narratives come with their own complications about masculinity and homophobia. But that obscures the fact that stories about women falling in love with other women are just as ripe for epic films, be they romances or coming out tales.

To celebrate Lesbian Visibility Day we’ve compiled a list of ten films that capture the sheer breadth of lesbian-driven stories making it to the big screen in the United States and all through Latin America. From documentaries on one of the greatest lesbian musical icons of the twentieth century to love stories set in Chicago and featuring plenty of female luchadoras, find below something for every taste.

Mosquita y Mari

Aurora Guerrero

Featuring intimate camera angles and a lilting soundtrack to make US indie filmmakers swoon, Mosquita y Mari is the low-key and personal tale of two young Latinas, Yolanda and Mari, whose burgeoning affection develops under the domineering glare of family tradition. What begins as a friendship energised by the rebellious spirit of adolescence soon becomes something deeper as the girls’ mutual journey allows both to discover their true self. If that sounds corny, the film is anything but, with supreme performances from the two leads. The overriding message is one of positivity and unity, where the decisions we make are ours and ours alone. Not that that stops everyone else from sticking their beak in where it’s unwanted.

Synopsis By: Nick MacWilliam
United States
Drama
Aurora Guerrero
Charlene Blanco Agabao, Chad Burris
2012
85

Signature Move

Jennifer Reeder

Fawzia Mirza plays Zaynab, a Pakistani Muslim lawyer who finds inspiration in Lucha Libre wrestling and romance with Alma (Sari Sanchez), the sassy, confident Mexican-American woman who’s winning her heart. Zaynab’s newfound passions challenge her soap-opera—loving mother’s expectations of finding her a husband. This multicultural film’s exploration of relationships, cultural exchanges, and the mother-daughter dynamic will enthrall.

United States
Romantic Comedy
Lisa Donato, Fawzia Mirza
Brian Hieggelke, Fawzia Mirza, Eugene Sun Park
2017
80

As boas maneiras

Marco Dutra, Juliana Rojas

Bathed in the blue hues of full moonlit nights, this Brazilian werewolf horror film follows Clara, a nurse from the outskirts of São Paulo who takes a job as a nanny for a well-to-do pregnant young woman. What starts as a regular caretaker gig soon takes a turn for the weird when the woman’s odd cravings for red meat and late-night sleepwalking strolls reveal that there may be something unnatural about her pregnancy. Eerie and shot with a lurid formalism that makes it all the scarier (São Paulo’s nights have looked more frightening), Good Manners delivers on its chills and thrills.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
France, Brazil
Fantasy, Horror
Marco Dutra, Juliana Rojas
2017
135

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four

Deborah S. Esquenazi

Deborah S. Esquenazi is here telling the story of Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez—four Latina lesbians who in 1994 were tried and convicted of a heinous assault on two young girls in a court case that was infused with homophobic prejudice and the Satanic Panic sweeping the nation at that time. Southwest of Salem is a fascinating true crime story that puts the trial of the San Antonio Four in context of their ongoing search for exoneration.

United States
Documentary
Deborah S. Esquenazi
2016
89

El niño pez

Lucía Puenzo

Based off her own novel, director/screenwriter/producer Lucía Puenzo tells the story of Lala (Inés Efron), an Argentinian teenager, who is in love with her Payaguayan maid she calls La Guayi (Mariela Vitale). With a dream of running away to live together, Lala and La Guayi hatch a plan to steal money and find a new life in Paraguay. But when La Guayi’s past come back to haunt her, their dream scenario is put on hold indefinitely. Nominated for 10 Argentinian Oscars, the thriller picked up its sole win for Vitale’s performance as a new actress. It was also nominated for Best Film, Actress and Director.

Synopsis By: Kiko Martinez
Argentina
Drama
Lucía Puenzo
Luis Puenzo, José María Morales
2009
96

Dólares de arena

Israel Cárdenas, Laura Amelia Guzmán

The Dominican feature Dólares de arena (Sand Dollars), by husband-wife directing duo Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas, features none other than Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie and a brilliant actress in her own right) as an elderly French tourist who falls in love with a young Dominican woman and makes plans to move her back to France. Not your typical story of tropical romance told through the eyes of a white foreigner, this film is equally interested in exploring the predicament of the young Dominican woman, played by Yanet Mojica, and the shady power dynamics that may be at work.

Synopsis By: Andrew S. Vargas
Dominican Republic, Mexico
Drama
Laura Amelia Guzmán, Israel Cárdenas
Matías Roveda, Santiago Gallelli, Pablo Cruz, Benjamin Domenech
2013
84

Chavela

Catherine Gund, Daresha Kyi

This stunning documentary captures the significance of Mexico’s most beloved lesbian Rancheras icon—Chavela Vargas—a rebellious, solitary and profoundly wounded trailblazer. An unforgettable journey through the enigmatic life of Chavela, this lyrical love letter interweaves never-before-seen interview footage and mesmerizing musical portraits of her most famous soul-gripping songs. From the spotlight of the stage, Chavela’s tortured vocals and unapologetic queer sensibility inspired a deeply patriarchal culture to love, to cry, and to feel, redefining entrenched gender traditions. You’ll never forget it.

Spain, Mexico
Music, Documentary
Pepita Serrano, Daresha Kyi, Catherine Gund, Agnes Gund
2017
90

¿Cómo te llamas?

Ruth Caudeli

A portrait of two strong, independent women: a female director and the star of her first film, drawn together by a powerful attraction and their shared desire to take on the movie world. The passion between them creates a seductive and fascinating intimacy. But over time, their relationship evolves, swinging from infatuation to sensuality, which turns to tenderness, and then routine. They never wanted to be a conventional couple, and yet that’s just what they’ve become. Can Eva and Candela withstand the inevitable effects of time to overcome the metamorphosis of their relationship?

Colombia
Drama
Ruth Caudeli
Ana Piñeres
2018
90

Skate Kitchen

Crystal Moselle

Shy, 18-year-old Camille (played by Colombian-American newcomer Rachelle Vinberg) seeks out an all-girl skateboard crew in NYC, a subculture of sexually fluid, cool city kids whose lives revolve around social media and skateboarding. Camille, adopted into their gang, is quickly faced with the complexity of female friendship, loyalty pressures, and singular personalities. So much so she’ll rebel against her mother (Orange is the New Black’s Elizabeth Rodriguez). A breakout darling of the Sundance Film Festival, filmmaker Crystal Moselle (The Wolfpack) perfectly captures the female zeitgeist in her richly textured and atmospheric second feature.

United States
Drama
Crystal Moselle, Jen Silverman, Aslihan Unaldi
Lizzie Nastro, Julia Nottingham, Rodrigo Teixeira Izabella Tzenkova, Crystal Moselle, Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Sherman
2018
105

Clases de historia

Marcelino Islas Hernández

Verónica, a middle-aged high school history teacher, leads a non eventful life: she has grownup children, grandchildren and a less than perfect marriage. This dynamic seems to be the only thing she can hold on to, as she battles a terminal illness. As she reluctantly accepts her fate, she meets Eva, an irreverent and misunderstood new student who unknowingly injects some life and enthusiasm back into her and provides her with the tools to deal with her destiny. Marcelino Islas’ third feature film portrays an unlikely and fascinating friendship between two women who manage to overcome stereotypes and relinquish prejudices, impeccably played by seasoned actress Verónica Langer and newcomer Renata Vaca.

Mexico
Drama
Marcelino Islas Hernández
Andrea Toca, Daniela Leyva Becerra Acosta, Rosa Galguera, Marcelino Islas Hernández
2018
105