There are several LGBTQ-related documentaries/films now on Netflix.
Circus of Books:
This documents the journey of Karen and Barry Mason who ran a porn shop and epicenter for gay LA starting in 1976. It was well before LGBTQ culture was accepted and the AIDS epidemic happened. The film focuses on the double life they led, trying to maintain the balance of being parents in a taboo culture. Their three children were unaware of the type of book shop it was; they were just told their parents owned a book store. The Masons’ many challenges included facing jail time for a federal obscenity prosecution and enabling their store to be a place of refuge before and during the AIDS crisis.
Circus of Books offers a rare glimpse into an untold chapter of queer history, and it is told through the lens of the owners’ daughter, Rachel Mason, a filmmaker who directed the documentary. It is showing free on Netflix.
To their surprise, Karen and Barry’s son, Joshua, came out about 20 years ago. They had no idea he was gay; one would think in their line of business they would be total accepting; however, Karen struggled a bit with her faith.
One of the beauties of this story is their connection to PFLAG Los Angeles. Once Josh came out, they became very active in the chapter and still are today.
A Secret Love:
This one-hour documentary encompasses the journey of Pat Henschel and Terry Donahue, two women, who, when the documentary was filmed were octogenarians living in the small town of St. Charles, IL, not far from Chicago. While the past is showcased with vintage videos and black-and-white photographs, the present features their own voices as well as that of Terry’s extended family members. A Secret Love: documents the issues the lovers confronted during their younger days and how age itself has become a point of concern in their current lives. You feel badly that they had to lie to the world about their relationship, but they sure rose to the occasion when they had to.
Terry and Pat said they were cousins in order to conceal their relationship and why they lived together. And to family members, they were just friends.
It was fun to learn that Terry was one of the pioneers of Canadian women’s baseball during World War II, considered a man’s sport back in the day. “I broke all the rules all my life and that’s why I am happy,” says Terry. While Terry was telling this story, Pat interjected to explain how their love story was something straight out of a musical. “Our first kiss was in the middle of a street during a sandstorm, so nobody could see us.”
The documentary, both entertaining and heartwarming, was directed by Terry’s great-nephew, Chris Bolan.
The Half of It:
Alice Wu is the writer and director of the film, giving a queer take on “Cyrano de Bergerac.” Ms Wu tells a personal tale inspired by elements of her own young life. Featured are several of the kinds of characters who are so often seen in Young Adult films and novels: hyper-verbal teenagers given to expressing their anxieties and longings through witty, self-aware narration. The Half of It: takes place in the sort of small town that may seem quaint to the outside viewer, but feels like a prison to the restless kids trapped within it.