Nelly Queen: The Life and Times of José Sarria

Director: Joseph R. Castel
2020 | USA | 86m
GENRE: Activism | Biography/History | Camp | Drag | Gay | Latinx | Local Interest/Subjects | Queer
SECTION: Closed Captioned | Documentary Features | Streaming


The right to congregate (think: Pride and gay bars). Out LGBTQ+ politicians. The Imperial Courts. Some people may not know that these facets of an out-and-proud life have a common root in the inimitable José Sarria, but this sweeping documentary will leave you with no doubt about whose crown to kiss in thanks. Directed by Sarria’s long-time friend Joseph R. Castel, Nelly Queen documents the public personas and private losses that shaped one of the most influential queens of our community.

From Sarria’s beginnings as a well-accoutered child to his death in 2013, high camp and vintage footage bring to life lost gay bars (like the infamous Black Cat, where Sarria entertained a generation of patrons); the annual trek of Sarria’s alter-ego the Widow Norton; and his 1961 run for public office—the first openly gay candidate in the US. Interviews with Sarria’s friends and members of the Imperial Court contextualize the feats and (theatrical) follies that define Sarria’s lasting impact, elevating his relentless spirit, while inviting us into the intimate moments that helped—or hindered—his quest for an unapologetic life.


Buying Note: This digital screening is available to view between Thu, Jun 17 and Sun, Jun 27. We suggest watching it at 6:00pm PDT Fri, Jun 25. Be sure to check out the related Frameline Talk " Queer Legacies."

San Francisco Pride

The Jose Sarria Foundation, SF Openhouse, GLBT Historical Society