Have you heard? Having fun isn’t hard if you’ve got a library card! Your local library is one of the best free resources in your neighborhood. Need to learn how to file taxes? Library. Need a biography on Frida Kahlo? Library. Want to listen to The Argonauts as an audiobook? Library. But what about niche queer film? Kanopy is a database with tons of films, documentaries, and even television shows. Chances are, if you have a library card, you can access Kanopy. And my friend, once you learn about all Kanopy has to offer, you’ll never want to leave! Here are thirteen of the best of Kanopy’s queer film selections. Enjoy!
The Watermelon Woman is the first feature film to be directed by an out black lesbian, which is reason enough to give it a shot. But beyond that, it’s a warm and sexy film that explores several lesbian relationships while peeling back some of the layers of how we think about race.
Director: Cheryl Dunye
Watch if you’re into: Mockumentaries, Classic Lesbian Film, Film of Color
A low-budget but mostly cute lesbian rom-com featuring the stars of the beloved webseries Carmilla. // Read our review.
Director: Sarah Rotella
Watch if you’re into: Comedies, Rom Coms, Coming of Age Stories
Out in the Night
In August of 2006, seven black lesbians from New Jersey were hanging out in the West Village of New York City when they were harassed and violently threatened by a man on the street. When they defended themselves, they were arrested and charged with attempted murder and gang assault. They became known as the New Jersey Four. // Read our review.
Director: Blair Doroshwalther
Watch if you’re into: Documentaries, Criminal (in)Justice, Film of Color
T’aint Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s
Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter and Ethel Waters — T’ain’t Nobody’s Business examines Blues history through a lavender lens.
Director: Robert Philipson
Watch if you’re into: Documentaries, History, Music, Film of Color
The Year We Thought About Love: Behind the Scenes of Queer Youth Theater
The Year We Thought About Love is a 2015 feature-length documentary about the Boston-based POC LGBTQ theater group, True Colors: OUT Youth Theater.
Director: Ellen Brodsky
Watch if you’re into: Rom Coms, Coming of Age Stories, Documentaries, Performance, Youth
Balcony is a brutal, heart-breaking short film about a white British teen who develops romantic feelings for a Muslim immigrant. Things end badly.
Director: Toby Fell-Holden
Watch if you’re into: Drama, Short Film, Coming of Age Stories
The New Black
The New Black is a documentary that explores the ways the African-American community is grappling with the gay rights movement, especially in light of marriage equality.
Director: Yoruba Richen
Watch if you’re into: Documentary, Film of Color
Regarding Susan Sontag
Regarding Susan Sontag is a Tribeca Film Festival Award-winning documentary about Susan Sontag’s life and work and legacy. // Read our review.
Director: Nancy D. Kates
Watch if you’re into: Documentaries, Literature, History
Intersexion is a 2012 documentary about intersex people that was researched and presented by New Zealand activist Mani Mitchell.
Director: Grant Lahood
Watch if you’re into: Documentaries, Gender, Instersex Issues
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four
Southwest of Salem tells the story of four Latina lesbians who were found guilty of a crime they didn’t commit and how the legal and criminal justice systems failed them as queer women of color. // Read our review.
Director: Deborah Esquenazi
Watch if you’re into: Documentaries, Criminal (in)Justice, Film of Color
Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger
This is a documentary based on artist/theorist/activist Kate Bornstein’s trailblazing memoir of the same name.
Director: Sam Feder
Watch if you’re into: Documentaries, Gender, Trans Topics, Performance
Growing Up Trans
Growing Up Trans was originally part of Frontline’s First Person series; it explores the struggles and choices trans kids work through when they come out and decide to transition.
Director: Miri Navasky, Karen O’Connor
Watch if you’re into: Documentaries, Trans Topics, Youth
Framing Lesbian Fashion
This 1992 documentary looks at the evolution of lesbian fashion and identity, exploring butch/femme aesthetics, flannel, androgyny, and more.
Director: Karen Everett
Watch if you’re into: Fashion, History, Documentaries, Butches, Leather
Ahh thank you so much for this list!!
No lie, I am finally going to get a library card today just for this. Thank you Al!
Oh my goodness! I love Kanopy! I used to get them through my university and my girlfriend still does and their stuff is so diverse and amazing. Really really great variety on there. Watermelon woman will rock your socks off.
this is raddddd thank you Al
Thank you for this list! And also for the Arthur reference :)
Hey!As a die-hard library geek, here’s finally topic to which I can contribute. It’s possible that since I log in through a University Library, they might have more options than a public library account, but here’s some more on Kanopy:
Flix I’ve seen:
All about E (Australian feature- I LOVED THIS!! )
Reaching for the Moon (about poet Elizabeth Bishop’s relationship with Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares–Also 2 thumbs up)
Cloudburst (Olympia Dukakis as a butch lesbian! Yes!)
Tomboy (another yes vote.)
Loving Annabelle (also on Netflix, I find the teacher/student thing…creepy)
She Must be Seeing things (I’m not a fan,but you might be)
Training Rules- Discrimination on the Basketball Team at Penn. State (@#%*!@ Rene Portland- May she NOT RIP)
I haven’t seen the rest on this list:
Blush/Barash (also on Netflix)
Almost Adults (Also on Netflix)
Kiss Me (also on Netflix)
Liz in September (Autostraddle readers have been advised to skip this one, FWIW)
Mosquita & Mari
The Girl King (it looks bad, but your mileage may vary)
Not sure about this re:bad tropes
Allure (but Evan Rachel Wood!)
Playing Unfair- the Media Image of the Female Athlete
Mezzo- The Story of an openly Trans Opera Singer
Boy I am: Exploring Female-to Male Transgender Experiences
….And there’s more, but I really should get back to work. You can search for “Wolfe Video” to see some other queer flicks… or pick one of the above and click through “Related Videos”)
Cloudburst is such a fun(ny) movie!
I am so excited about this! Especially the queer blues documentary!
Ooooh awesome! My Mom is coming over this weekend and I think I can get her to watch the blues doc at least. Thanks for letting us know about this awesome service! I <3 my library!
This is excellent thank you!
I’ve been enamored with Kanopy since I discovered it, thanks for these awesome recs!!
How is it possible that I didn’t even know Kanopy was a thing?! Can’t wait to use this…thanks for the info, Al!
Yea! As I librarian, I could talk about libraryish stuff all damn day. Thanks for spreading the good word, Al!
If your library doesn’t subscribe to Kanopy, ask about the hoopla app. You just need your library card number and your PIN to access it. You can see what they have to offer here: https://www.hoopladigital.com
Yes to this. My library system (Chicago Public Library) doesn’t have Kanopy but it does have Hoopla and I looooove it so much. I mostly use it for ebooks and it’s so much easier to use than Overdrive.
thank you for reminding me to actually watch my watch list!!! these are great, al!
Anyone going to Cinema Systers, the only Lesbian Film festival in the USA Memorial Day weekend?