It’s more than a little weird to me that although over 100 programmers, critics and filmmakers voted on the 30 Best LGBT Films of All Time, there’s not a surprise on it. I appreciate the inclusion of Portrait of Jason and Genet’s Un chant d’amour — the latter still seems radical to me — but Carol, as lovely as it is, has to be the most conservative film Todd Haynes has ever made. As an attempt to boil the history of gay film (gay fiction features, for the most part, because only those exist) down to 30 (leaving aside my objections to bunching up all these alphabet-soup experiences together in one list), I guess that’s all to be expected. But still, it’s not just the slighted films that are getting shortchanged. It’s us.
The complete lists from the voters can be found here, but there aren’t many surprises on those lists either, but there is a clear bias and a big gap: the near-complete absence of Latin American films. There are a couple mentions of Y Tu Mamá También, set in Mexico, but one kiss between men doesn’t make a movie gay (and the homoeroticism of Beau Travail doesn’t make it gay, either), and a couple of votes for Before Night Falls, set in Cuba but directed by an American and starring a Spanish actor. I guess we’re supposed to believe that there have never been any significant LGBT films from Latin America? Isn’t education part of the BFI’s mandate?
The only other Latin American films mentioned once or twice are Contracorriente from Perú and XXY from Argentina. I liked the former and wrote about it; but wasn’t moved by the latter. Further, through that film’s casting and in the ways the characters’ sexual drives play out, the young couple’s love affair gets recuperated as heteronormative. I suspect that’s one of the reasons it got so much easy attention, both outside of and in Argentina. It’s more sensitive, modest and tasteful than most of the gender-bending crowd-pleasers that Hollywood lobs at those of us in the queer seats, but there’s not much daring about it. But, just those two. Just. Those. Two. I’ll leave it to more patient critics to count the number of nominations from every other country or region. It was all I could do just to scroll through the usual suspects.
I don’t really have to make an argument here, do I? There are great films from Latin America, great gay films from Latin America, and the ignorance, at the least, displayed in these lists isn’t so much inexcusable, though it is that, as bewildering and just fucking depressing. But it does reflect world political and cultural realities.
Euro-Gringo bias is a real thing, folks. I just wish there were more than a few cinephiles [any?] in the world that realized that.