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Sapphic Cinema Sensations: 10 Essential Lesbian Movies

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The last decade has seen a number of films deal with lesbians and lesbianism in a mature and insightful way. From light-hearted romantic comedies to tragic social dramas, Sapphic cinema has never been so healthy.

1. Sea Purple (2009)

This stylish Italian historical drama is about a lesbian called Angela in 1800s Sicily who is forced to change her identity and pretend to be a man in order be with the woman she loves. The ethereal atmosphere of the cinematography and scenery belies the film’s angry critique of patriarchy and state-sanctioned homophobia.


2. Affinity (2008)

Set in Victorian London, this BBC TV movie tells the tale of a miserable gentlewoman’s (played by Anna Madeley) attraction to an enigmatic spiritualist (Zoe Tapper). Adapted from Sarah Waters’ bestselling novel.

3. Imagine Me and You (2005)

Viewers were wowed by this film’s twisty-turny plotting and hilarious reimagining of a long-established genre. Piper Perabo and Lena Headey are perfectly cast as two women with very different attitudes to their attraction to one another.

4. Fingersmith (2005)

Another gem from the BBC, the “fingersmith” of the title refers to two 19th century female pickpockets who fall in love, despite coming from radically different social backgrounds. The quality of the acting and the beauty of the narrative structure will keep you glued to the screen.


5. Puccini for Beginners (2006)

Maria Maggenti’s second outing as director sees New York classical music expert Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser) starts dating a banker called Grace (Gretchen Mol), only to discover that previously they both dated the same male academic, played with poise and subtlety by Justin Kirke.


6. The Kids Are Alright (2010)

Perhaps the most high-profile lesbian motion picture of recent years, The Kids are Alright has an intriguing premise: what happens when the children of a long-term lesbian couple go seeking out the man who donated the sperm to create them? Although a critical and commercial success, the movie was not without its detractors who claimed that this nominally lesbian film was in fact more interested in satisfying a straight audience.


7. Pariah (2011)

This brave and unflinching film highlights the obstacles that an African-American lesbian must overcome in order to find happiness and acceptance. Adepero Oduye’s lead performance as the troubled and conflicted Alike is nothing less than masterful.


8. Kiss Me (2011)

A vividly realist portrayal of two women who fall in love. It should be that simple, but the fact that they are about to become step-sisters means that it really isn’t. Director Alexandre-Therese Keining handles the story with genuine empathy and respect.


9. Circumstance (2011)

As a recent blog entry on KitschMix showed, Iran is not the easiest place to be gay. Circumstance offers viewers an unsettling insight into what it is like to live in a society that treats women as second-class citizens and lesbians as something even worse.


10. Bloomington (2010)

A lesbian variation on the timeworn theme of teacher-pupil romance, Fernanda Cardoso’s meditation on the affair between a maternal psychology lecturer and a former child actress in need of a parental figure is intriguing stuff.

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