Arts·Queeries

Beyond Barbenheimer: 10 movies that will make this the greatest summer for queer cinema... ever?

From Bottoms and Problemistas to theatre camps and gay wrestlers, this summer has something for everyone — especially if you're queer.

From Bottoms and Problemistas to theatre camps and gay wrestlers, this summer has something for everyone

There stills from films featuring Tilda Swinton in Problemista; Ayo Edeberi in Bottoms; Franz Rogowski in Passages.
From left: Tilda Swinton in Problemista; Ayo Edeberi in Bottoms; Franz Rogowski in Passages. (Courtesy)

Queeries is a column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens. 

One of the most anticipated weeks in moviegoer history has arrived. It's Barbenheimer time, and going to the movies hasn't seemed this back in fashion since the before times.

Now, while I fully support any queer person's right to be extremely excited about Christopher Nolan and Greta Gerwig's collective contributions to saving cinema (this queer certainly has his tickets in order), I feel it's important to remind everyone that there are also many actual queer films (meaning films made by and/or about LGBTQ people)  also coming out this summer.

In fact, this might just be the greatest summer for LGBTQ films ever (or at least since the 1990s). And while mid-July might feel like the summer's already halfway over, its queer movie offerings are just getting started. So if you've found yourself recently being reminded how great it is spend a hot summer night in an air-conditioned cinema, may I suggest adding these 10 films (which either just came out or will in the next two months) to your summer watch list.

Bottoms

If anyone is rivalling Barbie as the face of summer 2023, it's Ayo Edebiri. The writer, comedian and actor just received a very deserved Emmy nomination for her performance on Season 1 of The Bear, whose second season (which finally comes out tomorrow in Canada) is undeniably this summer's most acclaimed show. And on the big screen, you can see Ayo in not one but two of the summer's most hilarious movies: as part of the ensemble of Theater Camp (which we'll get to later) and as the co-lead in Canadian filmmaker Emma Seligman's Bottoms.

Rightfully described as the "horniest, bloodiest high school movie of the 21st century" by Rolling Stone, it's also unquestionably one of the queerest... and funniest (and maybe a candidate for a future update of this list). It stars Edebiri alongside Rachel Sennott as two high school seniors who essentially start a fight club so they can hook up with cheerleaders. Barbie could never, and that's why we better be lining up for Bottoms too. Coming to cinemas August 25th.

Cassandro

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Roger Ross Williams makes his narrative debut with this wild biopic of "the Liberace of luca libre," Saúl Armendáriz, a.k.a. "Cassandro." A fiery, joyous portrait of an unlikely icon, Cassandro stars Gael Garcia Bernal as a man on a fearless journey to become a rare openly gay star in the Mexican wrestling world of the early 1990s.

Led by an electrifying Bernal, it also features great supporting turns from Roberta Colindrez (A League of Their Own), Raúl Castillo (The Inspection) and none other than Bad Bunny. It was already confirmed as one the year's big queer crowdpleasers when it debuted to glowing reviews at Sundance earlier this year, and you can see for yourself when it comes out during summer's last official week. Coming to cinemas September 15th (and streaming on Prime Video September 22nd).

Challengers

The only film on this list to not have screened anywhere yet, Luca Guadagnino's Challengers was just confirmed to make its debut as the opening night film of Venice on August 30th. It's supposed to be in theatres two weeks later, though it is quite possible the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes that have resulted from studios not paying actors and writers what they deserve will ultimately delay that. But whenever we get to see Challengers, it seems certain to be a delicious queer treat, as is the case with anything Guadagnino touches (see: I Am Love, Call Me By Your Name, Bones & All, etc).

Starring Zendaya, Josh O'Connor and Mike Faist, the trailer suggests (speaking of Gael Garcia Bernal) a love triangle in the vein of Y tu mamá también (bring on the Y tu tennis también review headlines), which sure sounds like a fun time considering everyone involved – which also includes screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes, the husband of Past Lives director Celine Song, a fascinating twist if you have seen that heavily autobiographical film. Coming to cinemas September 15th (and likely a few film festivals before that). 

Mutt

Set over the course of 24 hours in New York City, Vuk Lungulov-Klotz's revelatory directorial debut Mutt is centred on Feña (Lío Mehiel, who earlier this year became the first trans actor to win an acting prize at the Sundance Film Festival for their visceral work here — notably also their screen debut). In the midst of transitioning, Feña is having a very challenging day trying to juggle largely unexpected interactions with their ex-boyfriend (Cole Doman), half-sister (Mimi Ryder) and father (Alejandro Goic). What results is a deeply poignant and moving film about moving through life that heralds several new exciting new queer talents. Coming to cinemas August 18th.

Passages

Queer love triangles continue to prove to be in season with Ira Sachs' Passages, which stars Franz Rogowski as a narcissistic — perhaps even sociopathic — filmmaker who leaves his husband (Ben Whishaw) for a woman (Adèle Exarchopoulos) he's started an affair with. Set in Paris, the film is an intense and intimate (the sex scenes are ... truly outstanding) examination of our sexual and emotional impulses that is expertly directed by Sachs, who has already offered us modern queer classics like Love is Strange and Keep The Lights On. One of my favourite films — queer or otherwise — of the year so far, make Passages a late summer cinematic priority. Coming to cinemas August 11th (and streaming on MUBI soon after).

Problemista

One of our greatest comedic minds gets his biggest canvas yet in Problemista, the fearless, singular new film starring, written, produced and directed by Julio Torres.

Centered on an aspiring toy designer from El Salvador (Torres) who is trying to bring his ideas to life in New Tork City, the film also stars everyone from Tilda Swinton and Isabella Rossellini to RZA and Megan Stalter. But its greatest asset is Torres himself, who builds on a career that has included writing for Saturday Night Live (including its greatest queer sketch ever) and co-creating the wonderful (and sadly departed) HBO comedy Los Espookys by offering us the summer's weirdest delight of a film. Coming to cinemas August 4th.

Rotting in the Sun

There's absolutely one thing Barbie and Oppenheimer fail at when compared to Sebastián Silva's riotous meta-comedy Rotting In The Sun: onscreen penises and graphic gay sex. Sun stars Silva as a heightened version of himself who spends his days taking copious amounts of ketamine while researching painless ways to kill himself as his maid (Catalina Saavedra) cleans up around him. Things take takes a turn when Silva runs into social media influencer Jordan Firstman — also playing himself — at a queer nude beach in Mexico, and then takes quite another when Silva goes missing (which his maid may or may not have had something to do with), leaving Firstman on a mission to find him.

A biting satire of class, queer culture and filmmaking itself, Rotting in the Sun is the late summer, penis-heavy delight we've all been waiting for. Coming to U.S. cinemas only on September 8th, though there will also be a special public screening at Toronto's Paradise Theatre on August 31st (it will also be streaming on MUBI across North America on September 15th). 

Something You Said Last Night

Luis De Filippis was recently spotlighted by my colleague Radheyan Simonpillai as one of Canada's Rising Stars, and it's very easy to see why when you watch her feature film debut, Something You Said Last Night.

Starring Carmen Madonia (an incredible new Canadian talent herself) as a trans woman in her mid-20s who goes on a vacation with her Italian-Canadian family, the film is intimate, self-assured and filled with quietly moving performances. And it's collected many fans since its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival last year — including none other than Uncut Gems breakout Julia Fox, who loved the film so much she jumped on board as an executive producerIn cinemas now. 

Theater Camp

Set at a camp for budding performers in upstate New York ("AdrirondACTS," lol), directorial duo Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman's mockumentary Theater Camp is already a lowkey hit after just a week in cinemas. And that's certainly in part to having the most hilarious ensemble cast on this list: the aforementioned Edebiri, Amy Sedaris, Jimmy Tatro, Patti Harrison, Noah Galvin and Ben Platt (with the latter two also co-writing the screenplay), as well as Gordon herself. A sort of zany queer sibling to the best Christopher Guest movies, if you haven't already seen Theater Camp, perhaps you should make this weekend's plans a triple feature. In select cinemas now, and continuing to expand to more in the coming weeks.

This Place

Also already in cinemas is V.T. Nayani's beautiful queer love story This Place. The film stars Reservation Dogs star Devery Jacobs (who also co-wrote the film with Nayani and Golshan Abdmoulaie) and Priya Guns as two women, both daughters of refugees, who find each other — and begin to fall in love — at a Toronto laundromat.

With dialogue in Mohawk, Persian, Tamil, French, and English, This Place is a rich portrait of intersections that marks a confident feature directorial debut from Nayani while continuing to make clear that Jacobs is one of our greatest young talents. In cinemas now. Available to rent or buy at home on demand on August 15th.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since the publication of this article, both Challengers and Problemista have had their releases pushed back due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Knegt (he/him) is a writer, producer and host for CBC Arts. He writes the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and hosts and produces the talk series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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