LGBTQ+ History Month: Ground-Breaking Moments in Lesbian Cinema

In anticipation of the release of Céline Sciamma’s stunning period romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which took home both the Queer Palm (the first film directed by a woman to do so) and Best Screenplay at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in 2019, we’re celebrating the female gaze with a season of films directed by women - about women that love other women.

Adèle Haenel & Noémie Merlant in Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Sciamma exploded onto the international film scene in 2007 with her breath-taking lesbian coming-of-age drama Water Lilies. Reflecting wider industry inequalities about who gets to tell what stories, it remains one of only a handful of films about lesbians that are directed by a woman. That’s not to say that men can’t ever direct films that feature lesbians - Todd Haynes’ Carol remains a firm favourite - but the industry is crying out for balance.

Céline Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

So this February we’re asking, what’s different when women get behind the camera, and tell their own stories?

Our season kicks off with Dykes, Camera, Action!, a bold and inspiring doc that takes a deep dive into the world of lesbian filmmakers and celebrates those that really broke the mould. Then we’ve got a special preview of the sumptuous, sensuous, Portrait of a Lady on Fire (on Valentine’s Day, no less!).

Later in the month we’re teaming up with Sheffield Doc/Fest to present a selection of short films from radical filmmaker extraordinaire, Barbara Hammer. And finally, we’ll be rounding things off with the soulful Hollywood love-story Desert Hearts, a landmark film that continues to subvert expectations by being a rare queer story defined by tender romance rather than persecution.

Queer cinema pioneer Barbara Hammer.
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