7 LGBT Filmmakers Who Are Having a Great Year

From up-and-comers who made splashy debuts, to reliable favorites stepping up their game, here are this year's best queer filmmakers.
lgbt directors gay queer movies
L to R: Travis Mathews, Angela Robinson, Francis Lee.

As we gear up for an awards season ripe with many quality queer films, it’s important to remember smaller successes who may get lost in the shuffle. LGBT-themed film festivals Outfest and Frameline kicked off the summer, while New York’s own NewFest wrapped up last week. It’s always thrilling to see a gay film get awards attention, like the kind lavished on Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name” and foreign language contender “BPM (Beats Per Minute).” But it’s been a banner year for nuanced queer films across the board, and especially ones from queer-identified filmmakers.

From up-and-comers making splashy debuts, to longtime favorites who have stepped up their game, the filmmakers on this list represent a varied swath of not only the LGBT spectrum, but vastly different artistic styles. That means they have the potential to reach different audiences — and open up perspectives across demographics.

Here are eight LGBT filmmakers who are having a great year.

1. Francis Lee, “God’s Own Country”

Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu in Francis Lee’s “God’s Own Country”Courtesy of Sundance

Beautifully rendered and engaging from beginning to end, Francis Lee’s “God’s Own Country” is the kind of gay film more people should be making. The documentary-style farm scenes elevate it way beyond more conventional gay dramas, and it doesn’t make the mistake of confusing tragedy with quality. The film is set in the bleak but beautiful Yorkshire countryside, where young Johnny (Josh O’Connor) carries the burden of managing his family’s livelihood in the wake of his father’s stroke. To help with lambing season, the family hires a Romanian migrant worker named Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu). While Johnny is well-versed in soliciting random sex at livestock auctions, he isn’t prepared for the intensity of real human connection. But when the two head up the mountain to birth the lambs, things get muddy.

The movie played Sundance earlier this year to rave reviews, with its country setting and restrained storytelling earning inevitable comparisons to “Brokeback Mountain.” But “God’s Own Country” has the benefit of two fresh faces in the leads to fully inhabit the roles with no prior associations, as well as the freedom to buck Hollywood tropes (including that pesky one where gay romance must end in tragedy).

2. Anthony and Alex, “Susanne Bartsch: On Top”

Filmmakers Anthony and Alex.

As forward thinking as their debut film’s fabulous subject, filmmaking duo Anthony and Alex (née Anthony Caronna and Alexander Smith) know how to make a splash. In appearances promoting the film, the duo flanked their film’s impossible-to-miss subject in requisite style. That they even got the legendary gay party promoter Susanne Bartsch to agree to be filmed was no small feat, and the duo served up an impeccably stylish documentary deserving of New York nightlife’s grande dame. Their first feature follows an impressive slew of fashion films and music videos for artists such as Liam Finn, Diane Birch, and Mykki Blanco. “Susanne Bartsch: On Top” made its New York debut as the opening night selection of Newfest. It is currently seeking distribution.

3. Angela Robinson, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women”

Bella Heathcote stars as Olive Byrne, Luke Evans as Dr. William Marston and Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth Marston in PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN, an Annapurna Pictures release.Credit: Claire Folger / Annapurna Pictures
“Professor Marston and the Wonder Women”Claire Folger

Angela Robinson’s sultry new biopic shows the uncorseted side of “Wonder Woman” and her eccentric scribe, William Moulton Marston. One of the first films released as part of Annapurna Pictures’ new distribution arm, the movie stars Luke Evans (“Beauty and the Beast”) as Marston, Rebecca Hall (“The Prestige”) as his wife, Bella Heathcoate (“The Neon Demon”) as the couple’s shared lover, and Connie Britton as an impeccably coiffed foil. An out lesbian, Robinson has had success with prestige television such as “Hung” and “True Blood,” and was a driving force as a writer and director on Showtime’s “The L Word.” Her two feature films, “D.E.B.S.” and “Herbie: Fully Loaded,” have leaned heavily on comedy, which is a strong suit. With Annapurna’s might behind her and subject matter this ripe, “Marston” heralds a new phase in Robinson’s career — a much deserved one that’s been a long time coming.

4. Stephen Cone, “Princess Cyd”

princess cyd lgbt queer

The Chicago-based filmmaker is best known for 2015’s “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party,” which was hailed by critics as a naturalistic and nuanced look at a teenage boy reconciling his burgeoning homosexuality with his religious upbringing. Cone ups his game once again in “Princess Cyd,” a beautifully rendered portrait of one teen’s search for sexual identity and her developing relationship with an estranged aunt. The 16-year-old athlete Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) stays with her novelist Aunt Miranda (Rebecca Spence) in Chicago one summer, the two women gently dance around each other as they attempt to establish an adult connection. Meanwhile, Cyd seeks guidance during her dalliance with cute androgynous barista Katie (Malic White). It’s not every filmmaker that can paint female sexuality with the requisite nuance, but Cone’s collaborative approach to actors and humanist worldview make “Princess Cyd” one of the best surprises of 2017.

On the next page: Alan Cumming goes indie, a James Franco collaborator, and a documentary airing old Hollywood’s dirty laundry.

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