Firelight Pride: LGBTQ+ Films to Stream Year-Round
Since our founding, Firelight Media has been proud to support LGBTQ+ filmmakers and films as part of our mission of changing the story. Firelight-supported filmmakers from the early days of our Documentary Lab, to more recent short film productions like IN THE MAKING, have used documentary storytelling to highlight the lives and visions of LGBTQ+ people and communities.
In honor of Pride Month, we are pleased to highlight a selection of films by Firelight-supported filmmakers that are available to stream throughout the month of June and beyond.
‘Maia Cruz Palileo: Becoming The Moon,’ dir. Ligaiya Romero
“You have to make what you want to see.”
Maia Cruz Palileo: Becoming The Moon (2021) explores the life and work of Maia Cruz Palileo, the multi-disciplinary, Brooklyn-based artist who examines themes of migration and the permeable concept of home in her works, inspired by the oral history of her family’s arrival in the United States from the Philippines. The documentary short, part of the first season of our IN THE MAKING series with PBS American Masters, is directed by Documentary Lab alum Ligaiya Romero.
‘Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: This Is The Way We Rise,’ dir. Ciara Lacy
“Pilina is the word that we use to describe any kind of relatedness, but it also means to be stuck to something.”
Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: This Is the Way We Rise (2021) follows the Kanaka Maoli wahine poet, activist, and academic as she continues her work toward justice for Hawaii’s native population. The documentary short, part of the first season of our IN THE MAKING series with PBS American Masters, is directed by Documentary Lab alum Ciara Lacy.
‘Gavin Grimm vs.,’ dir. Nadia Hallgren
“Imagine if one day you woke up and the same person is on the inside, but the outside does not match.”
Gavin Grimm vs. (2017) follows transgender teen Gavin Grimm who in 2016 sued his local school board after its members refused to let him use the bathroom of his choice. He was ready to take his case all the way to the Supreme Court — and then the election happened. [In 2021, the Supreme Court declined to hear Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, allowing lower court decisions in support of transgender students to stand.] This documentary short, part of our OUR 100 DAYS series with Field of Vision, won a 2018 Webby Award for Public Service and Activism, and is directed by Nadia Hallgren.
‘Unapologetic,’ dir. Ashley O’Shay
“If Black, queer, feminist people are not free, nobody else is going to be free.”
After two police killings, Black millennial organizers challenge a Chicago administration complicit in state violence against its Black residents. Told through the lens of Janaé and Bella, two fierce abolitionist leaders, Unapologetic is a deep look into the Movement for Black Lives, from the police murder of Rekia Boyd to the election of mayor Lori Lightfoot. The film is directed by Documentary Lab alum Ashley O’Shay.
‘Mr. SOUL!,’ dir. Melissa Haizlip
“The term ‘gay’ was not in vogue at that time; you were ‘effeminate’ or you had these different interests, you were just ‘different.’ But nobody talked about it.”
From 1968 to 1973, the public television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic (and openly gay) producer and host Ellis Haizlip offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of Black literature, poetry, music, and politics — voices that had few other options for national exposure, and, as a result, found the program an improbable place to call home. With participants’ recollections and illuminating archival clips, Mr. SOUL! (2018) captures a critical moment in culture whose impact continues to resonate, and an unsung hero whose voice we need now more than ever to restore the SOUL of a nation. This documentary is directed by Documentary Lab alum Melissa Haizlip and recently won a Peabody Award.
‘Duty Free,’ dir. Sian-Pierre Regis
“You have one chance at life. For God’s sake, live it the way that makes you comfortable.”
Duty Free (2021) follows a 75 year-old immigrant mother who, after she gets fired without cause from her lifelong job as a hotel housekeeper, is taken by her son on a bucket-list adventure to reclaim her life. As she struggles to find work, he documents a journey that uncovers the economic insecurity shaping not only her future, but that of an entire generation. This film is directed by Documentary Lab alum and Impact Campaign Fund grantee Sian-Pierre Regis.
Call Her Ganda, dir. PJ Raval
“I felt a connection to her immediately as a Filipina trans woman.”
When 26-year old Filipina transgender woman and alleged sex worker Jennifer Laude is found dead with her head plunged into a motel room toilet, the perpetrator is quickly identified as 19-year-old U.S. marine Joseph Scott Pemberton. A military recruit in an unfamiliar land, Pemberton was on “liberty leave” when he solicited Jennifer at a disco. On discovering that Jennifer was transgender, he brutally murdered her, leaving her to be found by her friend and the motel receptionist. A modern David and Goliath story, Call Her Ganda (2018) follows a cast of willful women as they take on some of the most powerful institutions in the world. Fusing personal tragedy, human rights activism and the little known history, and complex aftermath, of U.S. imperial rule in the Philippines, Call Her Ganda forges a visually daring and profoundly humanistic geopolitical investigative exposé. The film is directed by Documentary Lab alum PJ Raval.
‘Memories of a Penitent Heart,’ dir. Cecilia Aldarondo
“‘I love you to the moon and back.’ Michael used to always tell me that.”
Filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo suspected that there was something ugly in her family’s past. Memories of a Penitent Heart (2016) excavates a buried conflict around her uncle Miguel, who died at a time when AIDS was synonymous with sin. As she searches for Miguel’s partner decades later, the film — both a love story and a tribute — offers a cautionary tale of how faith can be used and abused in times of crisis. Cecilia Aldarondo is a Documentary Lab alum and an Impact Campaign Fund grantee.
‘The New Black,’ dir. Yoruba Richen
“We were blasphemous enough to compare the gay movement with the movement for civil rights and Black folks. Is gay the new Black?”
The New Black (2013) tells the story of how the African-American community grappled with the gay rights issue in light of the gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights. The film documents activists, families and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage and examines homophobia in the Black community’s institutional pillar — the Black church and reveals the Christian right wing’s strategy of exploiting this phenomenon in order to pursue an anti-gay political agenda.
To learn more about Firelight Media, our programs, and our community of filmmakers, visit FirelightMedia.tv.