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From coming-of-age and coming out stories of queer teens to Malibu beach trysts and Italian triads, the 42nd annual Denver Film Festival is bringing a handful of spectacularly queer stories to the big screen during the two week run. As we look ahead at the schedule for DFF42, running October 30- November 10, here is a breakdown of some LGBTQ films, and more, that we are stoked on.

 

So Pretty

Four queer and trans youth share a Brooklyn apartment where they attempt to create a utopian space in which to experience the joys of daily life, sex, and cooperation in the ongoing struggle as society’s “other.” Reality sets in when they participate in a political protest.

Director Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli blurs the line between narrative fiction and documentary in the adapted novel So schön by German author Ronald M. Schernikau, creating a much-needed dialogue about gender, identity, and diversity.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

France, 1760. Marianne is commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of Lady Héloïse, whose family has retrieved her from the convent to marry her off. It’s a delicate assignment: Given Héloïse’s resistance to the marriage, her mother instructs Marianne to work undercover—arriving under the guise of companionship to observe the bride-to-be by day, then secretly painting her by firelight at night.

But the more the two women get to know one another, the more they dispense with false pretenses, instead developing secrets of their own as the portrait becomes a collaborative act and a testament to their love. French writer/director Céline Sciamma won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes for this elegantly subversive and affecting period romance, which upends key tropes of the genre to prove that, in Variety’s words, “the world looks different when seen through a woman’s eyes.”

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Show Me What You Got

Marcello, a wealthy young man compulsively seeking out new emotional experiences, gets more than he bargained for when he encounters Nassim and Christine on a Malibu beach in this sultry, luminous black-and-white romance co-written and directed by longtime cinematographer Svetlana Cvetko.

There’s an undeniable spark between Marcello, the sincere actor Nassim, and Christine, an artist grieving her beloved grandfather; almost immediately, the adventurous trio begins to explore their sexuality together even as they struggle separately to prove themselves to their families and the world around them. Their unconventional love story takes them from Los Angeles to Italy, where their relationship faces great trials as well as great joy.

Love Trilogy: Chained

Israeli director Yaron Shani uses his unique employment of improvisation by nonprofessional actors as a forceful examination of toxic masculinity.

As a veteran police officer, Rashi sees himself as a righteous figure of authority, but his self-image suffers a one-two punch when his wife miscarries and an incident with some youths leads to an accusation of sexual assault and his subsequent suspension from the force.

While fighting for survival at work, he finds himself on the defensive at home as well, as both wife and child begin to chafe against what he considers to be the ties that bind a family—rather than the shackles of male dominance that may come to hurt him most of all.

Pahokee

Directors Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan create a detailed, nuanced portrait of Pahokee in this engaging documentary. With a population of only 6,000, the small town in the Florida Everglades is a tight-knit community that has two consistent themes: real struggles in the form of financial insecurity and the overwhelming collective desire of its young people to strike out for bigger and better things.

The filmmakers follow four high-school seniors throughout their final school year: Na’Kerria Nelson, who hopes to trade in her cheerleading uniform for nurses’ scrubs; football team captain BJ Crawford, who’s counting on an athletic scholarship to get him into college; Jocabed Martinez, an honors student who works at her Mexican-born parents’ roadside taqueria after school; and Junior Walker, a single father trying to complete his own education for the sake of his child. They all harbor the dreams, face the challenges, and endure the heartbreak that define life on the cusp of adulthood in 21st century America.

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A Girl From Mogadishu

Circumcised at age eight. Raped by wandering militiamen at age 12. Fully infibulated at age 13 and married off to a 50-year-old man who regularly beat her. Ifrah Ahmed could have been just one more nameless, faceless victim in the annals of war-torn Somalia. Instead she became an international heroine.

This enlightening biopic traces Ahmed’s extraordinary journey from home to Dublin, Ireland, where she’s eager to put her traumatic past behind her—until, that is, a routine medical smear test elicits such looks of horror on the faces of her doctors that she’s forced to confront what happened to her: first with shame, then with anger, and finally with a thirst for justice.

Learning English and mastering social media with astonishing speed, she begins to campaign for the rights of asylum seekers in Ireland and, within months, becomes a leading activist against gender-based violence, fighting for a ban on the practice of female genital mutilation worldwide. So she remains today.