MOONLIGHT was the canary in the coalmine. Last year, when Barry Jenkins’ film telling the story of a poor, gay young black man's life took the Best Picture Oscar, it seemed a sign of a massive cultural change in Hollywood. It seemed as if the world of mainstream film had realised it was no longer good enough to deliver only the stories of white, straight people, directed primarily by white straight men. Diversity was imperative. It was the future. And certainly this year seems to be delivering on that promise. There are high hopes that given the range of nominations, the awards ceremony next Sunday will seem no longer male and pale. For, among those nominated for best director are a woman, Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird, and a black man, Jordan Peele for Get Out. The awards see the first ever nomination of a woman, Rachel Morrison, for cinematography. Gerwig, it should be noted, is just the fifth woman to get such a nod in the whole of the history of the Oscars, and Peele is only the fifth black man.

Even the film that dominates the awards, Mexican director Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water, isn’t a classic white male offering, giving its a love story featuring a merman. Meanwhile, Trans voices feature to, with A Fantastic Woman, starring trans actress Daniela Vega, nominated in the foreign language category, and Strong Island, nominated for best feature documentary, directed by trans film-maker Yance Ford.

However, if the Oscars are trying to take underground voices and turn them mainstream, Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) has done it. Diversity is front and centre in this year's programme when the festival begins later this month - and not just because it’s acting as a platform for niche or underground films, but because this is where film-making is going. The underground is going overground. You no longer have to go to an LGBT festival to watch LGBT films. Or a black film festival for stories about black lives. Glasgow Film Festival co-director Allan Hunter, observes that there are “welcome signs everywhere that times are slowly but finally changing”.

GFF, he says, has always been committed to embracing as diverse a range of voices as possible. “This year seven of the ten films nominated for the Audience Award are directed by women and two of the hottest tickets are Karen Gillan’s directorial debut The Party’s Just Beginning and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here.”

The change in the industry, he observes, isn't solely driven by a sense of justice or equality, but a feeling that such films make good financial sense. “People are thinking, 'look how much money Wonder Woman made', look at the success of outstanding LGBT films like God’s Own Country and Call Me By Your Name, and look at the attention focused on trans actor Daniela Vega in the outstanding A Fantastic Woman screening at the Festival.”

Here, we take a look at some of the most exciting films by black, female, trans and gay voices on offer at GFF.

You, Me and Him

The feature debut of Australian film-maker Daisy Aitkens, an indie romantic comedy, about a loved-up lesbian couple, played by Lucy Punch and Faye Marsay, who both end up getting messily pregnant at the same time. It’s hilarious. And the him involved, is their Casanova neighbour, played by David Tennant, a man who couldn’t seem a more unlikely type to be fathering a child with a lesbian couple, but nevertheless is. “You’re talking about the man who thought LGBT was just a really big sandwich,” Marsay's character says at one point.

Life and Nothing More

Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight winning the Oscar for best film last year, was a breakthrough moment, not just because it was a film about a black, gay life, but also because it was low-budget and non-commercial. Spanish director Antonio Mendez Esparza’s Life And Nothing More is in that mould, brilliantly executed and starring a non-professional cast, as it tells the tale of a black working class family - Andrew who is in trouble for breaking into cars and his mother Regina, just holding things together through jobs in diners. It’s a film of the type urgently needed in America following the rise of the far-right. A powerful, multi-layered and moving examination of black American life.

You Were Never Really Here

Yes, she’s back, our homegrown female director genius, Lynne Ramsay, and with a film which Guy Lodge, in Variety, described as “a stark, sinewy, slashed-to-the-bone hitman thriller far more concerned with the man than the hit”. Though divisive, at Cannes it went down a storm, winning two prizes, and was heralded a masterpiece. Like Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow has done, Lynne Ramsay has turned her directorial attention to masculinity and violence, and produced a devastating film. Joaquin Phoenix stars as a traumatised veteran who hunts down missing girls. Sickening, horrifying and hallucinatory, are among the words that have been used to describe it.

The Breadwinner

Diversity is where it's at in animation currently, whether it's Disney or smaller studios. But if you want to see a film that delivers to a child audience a story, with diversity, female empowerment and global issues running through it, then look no further than The Breadwinner. Produced by Angelina Jolie, directed by Irish filmmaker Nora Twomen, and based on a book by Deborah Ellis, it tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old girl in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, who dresses as a boy so she can work to support her mother and sister.

The Party’s Just Beginning

Doctor Who assistant and star of blockbuster Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, Karen Gillan, not only directs, but has also written and starred in this story of a teenage suicide in the Highlands. Gillan has described it as a “fiercely honest tale of loss, grief and survivors’ guilt”.


Glaswegian director May Miles Thomas's film based on the life of her late mother-in-law Erica Thomas, who was born in Hungary in 1933, and left, when she died family films, photos, letters and objects dating back 100 years. It stars Sian Phillips and describes itself as a psycho-biography, as well as a "mix of romance, science and conspiracy theory drawn directly from her journals".

Love, Simon

You know things are really changing when Hollywood is making a mainstream gay romance teen comedy. Love, Simon is the story of an American teenager struggling with the fact that he is gay but not yet out. Hotly anticipated, it features Jurassic World star Nick Robinson in the title role, and 13 Reasons Why's Katherine Langford as his close friend. But the fact that the story made it to the screen is actually testimony to the popularity of LGBT storylines in Young Adult fiction, and to the success of the book on which it is based, Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.


The stunning and naturalistic debut feature by Amman Abbasi, the son of Pakistani immigrants who grew up in Arkansas, this gives us another insight into life in poverty-stricken black America. It tells the story of a 13-year-old teen, struggling after his older brother’s death, falling in with a violent gang, and looking to belong. "What starts off with the raw, unfabricated feel of a docudrama," said film critic Michael Retchschaffen, "becomes increasingly infused with a heightened realism often bordering on the surreal."


It’s hard to think of a film with more radical and sexual energy than Robin Campillo’s 120BPM. This is a film, which has been described as “proudly queer”, which didn’t try to woo a non-LGBT audience, but which nevertheless crossed over into the mainstream, taking the French box office by storm, and winning the grand jury prize at Cannes. 120BPM tells the story of ACT UP Paris, the Aids activist collective of which he was a member in the 1990s. Campillo has said: “When I joined ACT UP in 1992, it had been created because we were tired of being the poor gay guys who were victims of the epidemic. We decided to become the evil fags and dykes. We didn’t care about giving a good image of homosexuality to the rest of society. So, when I did this film, I tried to reconnect to that type of legitimacy.”

A Fantastic Woman

One of the big stories of this year’s Oscars has been the nomination for best foreign language film of A Fantastic Woman, Chilean director Sebastian Lelio’s drama starring the magnetic trans actress, Daniela Vega. Lelio has said he couldn’t have made the film without the star, who plays a trans woman who, when her older lover, Orlando dies, finds herself blocked from expressing her grief by institutions and Orlando’s family, under suspicion, and humiliated and degraded.

A Letter to the President

A Letter to the President didn’t get an Oscar nomination, though it was the Afghan foreign language film submission. The second feature by Roya Sadat, the country’s first female direct to emerge in post-Taliban times, it follows the story of a female police chief who accidentally kills her abusive husband and is sentenced to death. As Guy Lodge writing in Variety put it: "Its furious rallying cry against a corrupt patriarchy will, however, resonate with audiences across the globe.”


Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel, hasn't made a film since The Headless Woman nine years ago, then she comes back with this wonder of a drama, an adaptation of a novel by Antonio Di Benedetto about an 18th-century Spanish colony perched on the Asuncion coast. Film writer Xan Brooks described it as a "left-field masterpiece; a picture that’s antic, sensual and strange, with a top-note of menace and a malarial air".