Screening Room

For love & diversity: 10 up-and-coming queer filmmakers already changing the world

Tired of the usual sci-fi/superhero fare dominating cinemas in the summer?

We rounded up a listed of up-and-coming filmmakers who just might be versions of Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Damon Cardasis (Saturday Church) or Dustin Lance Black (Milk) along with their early films.

These 10 filmmakers from unrepresented communities have already earned notice. All have films or series available now to stream, each with a unique and bold statement just dying to be heard.

1. Yance Ford

Ford made history already this year by scoring an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature for his film Strong Island (now streaming on Netflix). In so doing, Ford became the first transgender man ever nominated for an Academy Award. Strong Island deals with the murder of Ford’s younger brother and the subsequent court drama.

2. Marco Castro-Bojorquez

Noted for his civil rights work and HIV activism, Castro-Bojorquez made a splash with his debut feature, the documentary El Canto Del Colibri (streaming on Amazon & iTunes). The documentary deals with Latino immigrant fathers coming to terms with their LGBT children, and how traditional Latino masculinity affects those relationships. Having already received a Champions of Change award from the (Obama) White House for his activism, Castro-Bojoquez seems destined to a high-profile in the future not just in film but also as a champion of social justice.

Related: ‘Dead Boys Club’ & 9 pretty terrific but little-known films streaming this Oscar season

3. Carly Udsin

Udsin got more than a few raised eyebrows from audiences (in a good way) upon the debut of her film Suicide Kale. A black comedy about two lesbian couples, the movie spotlighted Udsin’s directorial skill honed from her days as a short-form content director for sites like Funny or Die.

4. Steven Liang

The first generation Chinese-American Liang selected a group of transgender Latina women as the subject of his film Afuera (available on Amazon). With all transgender actresses playing the transgender roles, Liang has already dealt a blow for visibility in casting. The director says he plans to focus on making films dealing with people of color and the queer experience.

5. Sydney Freeland

Openly-transgender director Freeland has already scored an Emmy nomination for her film Her Story, a sitcom about transgender women. Having grown up on a Navajo reservation, Freeland’s work also tends to focus on the Native American community and the experience of indigenous peoples. Her comedy film Deidra & Laney on a Train, about two young women who become train robbers, streams on Netflix.

6. Elegance Bratton

New York native Bratton has already come a long way. As a teen, he found himself homeless after his family expelled him from the house for being gay. During his decade on the street, Bratton discovered the NYC drag ball scene, which led him to discover the queer community and get a hold on his life. It should come as no surprise then that his film Walk for Me (now on Amazon) focuses on the drag ball scene. The short played to wide acclaim on the festival circuit and earned Bratton the reputation of an up-and-coming artist.

7. Vicky Du

Anyone who makes a film called Gaysians (available on Amazon) begs for attention, and fortunately, director Vicky Du deserves it. The Taiwanese-American filmmaker used the film to explore the intersection of the Asian and LGBTQ communities—subjects that appear throughout her body of work. Having already announced her next project as a film about Chinese ex-patriots, Du has positioned herself as a talented director with a lot on her mind.

8. Florencia Manovil

Manovil has revealed herself as a prolific and talented filmmaker. Her Amazon sitcom Dyke Central has already earned her accolades for its mix of humor and drama, and a frank depiction of lesbian life. An Argentine immigrant, Manovil’s films often focus on the Latino experience overlapping with a queer one.

9. Sam Tabet  

Non-binary activist Tabet gained notice for their incendiary documentary Southwest of Salem about four Latina lesbians convicted of gang rape and murder as part of a Satanic cult. Tabet’s film shed new light on the decades-old case and helped to get the four innocent women exonerated of the crime. Tabet’s recent documentary Love the Sinner reveals the all-too-intimate connection between fundamentalist Christianity and homophobia. Tabet also founded the landmark Queer Producer Collective, a group of filmmakers focusing on telling stories from our perspective.

10. Parvez Sharma

First things first: Indian-born Sharma has some massive cojones. As an out-gay Muslim, Sharma has taken on the government Saudi Arabia, the revolutions of the Arab Spring, and the treatment of queer people in Arab nations. His film A Jihad for Love (now on Amazon) earned wide acclaim for its examination of the subject of homosexuality within Islam. Though the film earned Sharma a number of awards, it also earned him death threats. In addition to his work as a filmmaker, Sharma has won acclaim as an author, writing about his experience as a gay Muslim and providing essay commentary on sites like The Daily Beast.

Thanks to Frameline, the San Francisco-based queer media arts foundation, for helping us put this list together.