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Reader's Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Filmmakers

by /bent
June 9, 2014 3:24 PM
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Gus Van Sant

June is Pride Month, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall riots and asking all of us to remember how we got where we are today. So we thought it might be fun to start up an annual Pride Month poll here at /bent, asking our readers to tell us the films, television shows, songs and people (both fictional and real) that have been important to them in the past 45 years. 

READ MORE: Reader's Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Films

Seventy-two people responded, and we'll be sharing the results over the next few weeks, with the second poll up today: The most important LGBT filmmakers of the last 45 years. 

Now, before we get to the results: We do realize doing this kind of thing is highly subjective, which is why we're going with "most important" and not "best." We hoped that what resulted was eclectic mix of filmmakers that have helped shape the queer cultural landscape. And we think it really is. But here are some interesting things to note before you go through the list: 

  • The "points" listed next to each film refers to the way we tabulated things. People voted in top 10 lists, so if the film was #1, it got 10 points, #2 got 9 points, etc. 
  • The top two choices were somewhat obvious (and scored miles ahead of their competitors), and had quite a heated showdown between them. In the end only 16 points separated #1 and #2, but there were over 100 points between #2 and #3.
  • The most fascinating thing as far as we're concerned? So many of these filmmakers did not have films on our top 25 "most important" LGBT films from a few days back. In fact, 7 of the top 10 did not and over half the list overall didn't.
  • As expected, queer men made up for the vast majority with 21 (of 26 -- one listed were a male team).  Though in those polled's defence: Its not your fault that the vast majority of filmmakers you have to pick from are queer men. 
  • Four women made the list (including one trans woman), but only one in the top 10.
  • Ten of the filmmakers on the list are not American-born.
  • Ten of the filmmakers were born in the 1960s, the most represented decade in that regard by double. Five came out of the 1950s, and 4 each came out of the 1940s and 1970s. Two were born in the 1920s, and one -- by far the youngest filmmaker on this list (guess who!) -- was born in 1989.
  • Filmmakers that emerged out of the late 1980s/early 1990s "new queer cinema" were all over this list, making up half the top 10.
  • Only three filmmakers on this list have directed films that have grossed over $100 million, and they are oddly enough tied for 24th place, with the other sitting atop the list at #1.
  • Only three of them have seen their films nominated for a best picture Oscar, while another (all different) three have won at least one Oscar.
  • And in case you're curious, the 10 runner-ups, in order of votes, were: Kenneth Anger, Ira Sachs, Tom Kalin, Donna Dietch, John Schlesinger, John Greyson, Cheryl Dunye, Patricia Rozema, Roland Emmerich and Bill Condon. 

So without further adieu, we present the 25 most important LGBT filmmakers, according to you. Definitely use the comments section to discuss your thoughts and/or your own choices, but remember - these were your picks - do don't blame us if your offended about their quality or lack of diversity through the LGBT spectrum.

24 (tie). Bryan Singer - 26 points
Born: 1965 in New York, New York
Debut Film: "The Usual Suspects" (1995)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  Singer hasn't really made any explicitly LGBT films, though 2 points went to "X2: X-Men United" (2003) anyway, which has very much been read as an allegory for gay rights.

24 (tie). Lana Wachowski - 26
Born: 1965 in Chicago, Illinois
Debut Film: "Bound" (1996)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  "Bound" (1996)

23. Isaac Julien - 30
Born: 1960 in London, England
Debut Film: "Who Killed Colin Roach?" (1993)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  "Young Soul Rebels" (1991)

22. Rose Troche - 31
Born: 1964 in Chicago, Illinois
Debut Film: "Go Fish" (1994)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  "Go Fish" (1994)

21. Kimberly Peirce - 34
Born: 1967 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Debut Film: "Boys Don't Cry" (1999)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  "Boys Don't Cry" (1999)

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  • D/NO D/NCO | August 10, 2014 2:38 PMReply

    Pat Rocco? Fred Halsted? Jean Genet? Vaginal Davis? Rosa von Praunheim?

  • WTF | June 12, 2014 1:40 AMReply

    Does it matter who sleeps with whom ? Its movies! An they good or not. And doesn't matter who made them, blacks, whites, greens, jews, gays, one-eyed pirates. I'm so sick of this LGBT propaganda thing.

  • D/NO D/NCO | August 10, 2014 2:39 PM

    This conversation isn't for you.

  • JT | June 13, 2014 11:29 AM

    I'm not sure how a list of important LGBT filmmakers as voted on by the readers of a blog devoted to LGBT cinema is propaganda. Why are you even reading this blog? A director's biography and background has nothing to do with her or his films? Really? It sounds more like you're sick of hearing about people who are Not Like You. Being LGBT is about a lot more than who you sleep with. But from your comment (and I've heard every variation of this ignorant assertion over the years - generally from straight white, and usually male, people) it's pretty clear the very idea that LGBT people can make movies about LGBT people and get praised for it is something you can't allow or approve of. That's very sad. I hope you will one day figure out the source of your getting "sick" of minorities expressing their opinions. Of course, you might be LGBT yourself, which is even sadder.

  • Victor Santana | June 11, 2014 9:12 PMReply

    TOP 5 is fair, but I don't understand why Xavier Dolan is on this list.

  • irenee | June 11, 2014 4:48 PMReply

    what about Fiona Cunningham-Reid's documentaries - such as Croc-A- Dyke Dundee and Feed Them to The Cannibals ?

  • Peter Nellhaus | June 11, 2014 11:34 AMReply

    The list also reflects cultural biases in film distribution. Virtually unknown stateside is Thai filmmaker Tanwarin Sukkhapisit. A transexual, her first film, the autobiographical "Insects in the Backyard" was banned in Thailand. She may well be the first transexual to get a nomination for Best Director (sorry, Lana), for "It Gets Better".

  • JT | June 11, 2014 11:08 AMReply

    The fact that Trash is considered an Andy Warhol film (he had nothing to do with it aside from saying "That's great, Paul") shows how little about history and film the vast majority of readers know. It's very skewed toward popular filmmakers and celebrities from the last 20 years and so it misses major outsider filmmakers like Wakefield Poole, Joe Gage, Artie Bresson, and George and Mike Kuchar (all of whom made better and more influential films than many of the filmmakers on the list), as well as insane omissions like John Schlesinger (apparently Midnight Cowboy and Sunday Bloody Sunday are too obscure for readers here). But what does one expect from the masses - even among people who supposedly are interested in indie film? The only reason Querelle is listed as Fassbinder's most important gay film is because it's the only one in English. And it has lots of penis-shaped towers.

  • knee play | June 10, 2014 2:43 PMReply

    Where is Christine Vachon? She should probably be #1.

  • Kingo Gondo | June 10, 2014 2:37 PMReply

    John Schlesinger--gay--directed one of the most important films about gay life ever, Sunday Bloody Sunday, and he is omitted from the top 25.

    Apparently your readers are idiots.

  • Jason | June 11, 2014 4:11 AM

    Agreed, surprised Pasolini is on the list.

  • Jay | June 10, 2014 12:34 PMReply

    Who participated? There's so much wrong it's barely worth reading. And your most important lgbt films are a joke. There's some serious vapid people on a site about cinema.

  • shirley | June 10, 2014 10:34 AMReply

    Dustin Lance Black? Are you kidding me?

  • Chuck | June 10, 2014 7:59 PM

    Sad, isn't it?

  • Bryan | June 9, 2014 5:50 PMReply

    Bryan Singer but no Lee Daniels???

  • Chuck | June 10, 2014 7:58 PM

    I'm sure Apichatpong Weerasethaku, Gregg Araki, Marlon Riggs, Pedro Almodovar and Isaac Julien would be surprised to learn they aren't people of color. Maybe you meant they are underrepresented.

  • FP | June 10, 2014 12:29 PM

    No Cheryl Dunye, no Dee Rees, no Jenni Olsen, no representative of queer people of color really.

    Meanwhile, the tongues of your readers are still firmly entrenched in Dolan's ass (I'm sure an image you'd make true if you could) by stating he's one of the top 10 queer filmmakers ever, while Kim Peirce can't even get her named spelled correctly. Don't think your hands are clean on either count, bent, just because you let the fans vote on this idol worship site.

  • David Ehrenstein | June 9, 2014 5:18 PMReply

    No Patrice Chereau? This list is worthless!

  • Drew Morton | June 11, 2014 10:49 AM

    George Cukor doesn't count? Yikes.

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