Pride from Above
(UK, 45 min.)
Dir. Jen Kerrison
Get a bird’s eye view of the full spectrum of the rainbow in Pride from Above. This National Geographic, special oddly hitting streaming after Pride month, tours the world to observe how members of the LGBTQ+ community fight for equality on all seven continents. Narrated with upbeat voice of god grandeur by British actor Joe Shire, it admittedly offers a limited positive spin on the state of affairs for queer rights. One can only cover such expansive history so much in 45 minutes, but as a Gay Rights 101 crash course, audiences can certainly learn the basics through a refreshingly positive lens.
Pride from Above makes an earnest effort to be inclusive and consider full bowl of LGBTQ+ alphabet soup. (Shire offers an amusingly emphatic notation of the “plus” that follows LGBTQ, for example.) The documentary makes some unexpected location choices to take the story outside metropolises that usually represent the rainbow. For example, when the aerial view comes to Canada, it looks not to Toronto’s bustling parade, but to Niagara Falls. Pride from Above observes as busy hands prepare to transform the iconic waterfalls into all colours of the rainbow. Striking nighttime shots capture the impressive display. The scene underscores the role that Pride celebrations play for visibility and solidarity. In waving the flag, one signals a welcoming and inclusive space.
Similarly, in Sydney, Australia, the journey chronicles the energetic Mardi Gras festivities in February that kick off a year of Pride parades. The doc gets closer to the ground here as body cams and handheld shots capture life guards who rehearse a dance for the parade. The doc emphasizes queer joy throughout, noting how Pride serves as a rallying point for community spirit.
History Lessons Amid Festivities
Other visits use the events to explain the history of how Pride came to exist. A trip to New York City quickly tells audiences about the Stonewall uprising and the marches that ensured. Shire’s narration often reminds viewers of the element of protest that goes hand in hand with the parties. In some countries, like in Sri Lanka where a brave party of 50-odd people marches through the streets, simply being visibly queer is a risk in 2023.
In Iceland, meanwhile, a drone shot observes as activists paint the main thoroughfare in celebration of the Pride flag. The doc explains the evolution of the rainbow coloured flag to the Progress flag painted on the street. It tells audiences what the extra colour bars and symbols mean, highlighting the inclusion of transgender, intersex, and racialized people. The film makes an earnest effort to include a range of perspectives from country to country to reflect this diversity.
With so much area to cover, the documentary can’t quite address the complicated nature of Pride for many people. Don’t expect much, if any, commentary on the corporatization of Pride or the paradoxical presence of uniformed police at an event that grew in response to police brutality. Nevertheless, Pride from Above offers an accessible all-ages entry point for audiences looking to be educated. It should inspire a few trips to Pride parades, and some deeper dives into queer history for audiences interested to learn more.
Pride from Above is now on Disney+.