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June, LGBTIQ+ Pride Month: Celebrating Sexual Diversity in Spanish and Latin American Cinema

For the past century, LGTBQ+ themed has been part of Spanish and Latin American cinema, addressing sexual diversity as a central focus. On the one hand, condemning homophobia and discrimination that is still present in the lives of many people and, on the other hand, proposing crucial turning points in the process toward tolerance and inclusion.

Despite the fact that, in many parts of the world, expressions of sexual diversity have been limited by censorship and discrimination, in the last four decades the progress of this cinema has been reflected in the creation of awards and cultural events that celebrate cinema and sexual diversity.

An example of these is the Teddy Awards, which since 1987 have been given in the framework of the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), recognizing productions interested in the treatment of sexual diversity.  In the ‘90s, the MIX Brazil and MIX Mexico Festivals were launched, as well as the Lisbon Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which since its first edition has attracted international participation, with a large number of films from Latin-speaking countries.

In 2000, during the 48th edition of the San Sebastian International Film Festival, the Sebastiane Award was presented to films and documentaries that best reflect the values and reality of the LGBTIQ+ community. Similarly, in 2001, the Ciclo Rosa, organized by the Cinemateca Distrital de Bogotá, was launched in Colombia. A decade later, LGBTIQ+ cinematography reached another achievement when the first Queer Palm was awarded in Cannes.

In a chronological review of Spanish and Latin American LGBTIQ+ cinema we find La casa del ogro (1938), by Mexican director Fernando de Fuentes, probably the first film in which we see a homosexual character, Don Pedrito, a guy who is labeled as a gossiper and is only referred to as a very funny guy.

During the ‘60s in Spain, a time when homosexuality was persecuted and punished, Spanish filmmaker Luis M.Delgado, released Diferente (1961), considered the first Spanish film to show a homosexual on the screen. The mysticism surrounding this film is due to the fact that it was released in commercial theaters during General Franco´s dictatorship.

Another film that escaped censorship was Jaime de Armiñan’s Mi querida señorita (1971) in which Adela Castro, played by José Luis López Vázquez, discovers she is a man after years of being educated as a woman. A film that did not raise suspicions before the censors because of its natural narrative, the lack of eccentricities and the recounting of everyday situations.

With the death of Franco in 1975, homosexuality on Spanish screens became more and more frequent, with titles such as Los placeres ocultos (1976) by Eloy de la Iglesia, A un dios desconocido (1977) by Jaime Chávarri,+ and Un hombre llamado Flor de Otoño (1978) by Pedro Olea. The latter was recognized at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, where its star, José Sacristán, was awarded Best Actor.

In 1978, Mexican director Arturo Ripstein released El lugar sin límites, based on the novel by Chilean José Donoso. This production is remembered for being the first to show a kiss between two men on Mexican screens. It also served to highlight the importance of the subject by winning the Special Jury Prize at the San Sebastian International Film Festival.


In the ‘80s, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, one of the most representative figures of the Movida Madrileña and the LGBTIQ+ community, created characters that show their own humanity. In doing so, he tried to break with the sensationalistic and stereotyped representations that the Franco´s regime’s censorship of the LGBTIQ+ community had created in Spain.

His filmography includes, among others, Laberinto de pasiones (Labyrinth of Passion) (1982), which depicts homosexual love during the country´s transition to democracy and the search for freedom, and La Ley del deseo (Law of Desire) (1986), where he seeks to normalize homosexuality by entering the private lives of its protagonists

In 1985, Mexican director and screenwriter Jaime Humberto Hermosillo presented Doña Herlinda y su hijo, the story of a neurosurgeon who agrees to marry without sacrificing his true love, a boy who is a music student.

That same year, Brazilian producers, in co-production with the United States, released Hector Babenco‘s Kiss of the Spider Woman. The film tells the story of two inmates who share a cell after being sentenced, one for being a homosexual and for, supposedly, harassing a minor and the other for his revolutionary beliefs. William Hurt, the actor who played the homosexual Luis Molina, received a Golden Globe nomination and a Best Actor Oscar for his outstanding performance.

In the early ‘90s, the use of the term “queer” marked the emergence of new sources of expression, introducing a new genre to cinema: queer films. These were titles that opened up a range of possibilities regarding sexual identity. An example is the Cuban feature film Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate) (1993), directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío. It narrates the relationship between two young men, a university student and ardent communist, and a homosexual artist who faces the harassment of the Castro regime. The film received international recognition with a Silver Bear at the Berlinale, a Goya Award and an Oscar nomination in 1994.

By the 21st century, LGBTIQ+ productions have added new transgressive roles to their narrative. An example of this is La Virgen de los sicarios (2000), a Colombian fiction based on the novel by Colombian Fernando Vallejo directed by French director of Iranian origin, Barbet Schroeder. It is a brutal depiction of violence in the city of Medellin, imbued with a story of love and despair whose main characters are homosexuals. The film, which won awards at the Venice and Habana International Film Festivals was harshly criticized in Colombia by the conservative sector which called it “dark and gruesome”.

For its part, Cachorro (2004), by Spanish director Miguel Albadalejo, dealt with cases of homosexual paternity, placing the gay character in the context of the family. Meanwhile, the Mexican film Rabioso sol, rabioso cielo (2009), directed by Julián Hernández, is about a love story between three men that, in the director´s words “constructs love as an ancient epic”.  


In 2014, Venezuelan Miguel Ferrari presented Azul y no tan rosa, a story that confronts both homophobic violence and family acceptance of the protagonist’s sexual orientation. And, in 2018, Basque director Arantxa Echevarría stirred up Cannes with her opera prima, Carmen y Lola. An honest and touching film about the first love between two women from a gypsy community.

Transsexuality, which began with minimal visibility in the media, has been gradually gaining space in cinema, though transgender characters, with a few exceptions, are usually played by cisgender actors and actresses.

The fact that Chilean Daniela Vega, star of Sebastián Lelio‘s, A Fantastic Woman (2017), was the first trans person to set foot on the stage of the Oscar gala, when the film won the award for Best Foreign Language Film, is very significant. Equally significant was to watch, in 2021, the first film that addresses the subject of transgenderism in childhood, Yo nena, yo princesa“, by Argentine Federico Palazzo.



In the same year, Finlandia, first feature-length fiction film by Mexican Horacio Alcalá premiered at the Guadalajara International Film Festival. At the center of its tale is the “muxe” community of Oaxaca, in which these people, who have lived in Mexico since ancient time, define themselves as the third genre fighting for recognition by the society while battling for their hidden passions, traumas and feelings.

At a time when LGBTIQ+ cinema is going through a process of transformation, let “LGBTIQ+ Pride” month be an opportunity to give a bigger visibility and stronger voice to the diversity of people who have not been well represented in the film and television industry until now.