Drama, 12 min

A bittersweet insight to tradition while growing up queer


Celeste’s own journey to find balance between her religion and sexuality is a struggle many young gay people face today

Showing the sweet and innocent side of coming of age, and of coming out,  Natalie Jasmine Harris brings us this beautifully modern look upon the Cotillion tradition. Inspired by what she believes her own experience would follow, Pure shows us a modern take on the tradition that both Harris’s mother and grandmother took part in. Pure recognises the struggles that all young queer people go through. The idea of being in the ‘closet’ and being scared of what people may think alongside the idea of being ‘pure’ in a religious point of view is a prodominant theme throughout the film. 

From the minute we meet Celeste, religion is made apparently clear as something important to her. As she is shown wearing her cross necklace proudly, I was hit close to the heart. As a young bisexual woman myself, who was raised in the Catholic religion, being in any form gay was something that people would look down upon me for. I know this struggle between religion and sexuality all too well and it is a struggle felt by millions around the world. Often we are not given a choice – either love who you love or repress it and continue to worship within your community. I feel like this is often something that is not thoroughly addressed within film, the idea of being proud of your religion to the point of denying yourself who you truly are. Pure makes a subtle yet powerful comment on this relationship, that you can both be proud of your own upbringing and religion while also being proud of your own sexuality.

The height of the film for me personally was the ‘Conditioned to be Straight’ poem that sticks with me. This is presented as such a strong yet delicate moment within the film. Celeste explores the everyday struggles she encounters with her sexuality whilst linking them to her struggles as a young black woman. She equates the ‘straightening’ of her life to the straightening of her sexuality, her ‘straight hair’ makes her have a ‘straight heart’. She has to hide the kinks and curls of her hair to fit into this white, hetereonormative society – much like she has to hide her own sexuality. It’s also a moment of change for Celeste. We see her not as the shy, quiet girl that was late to her dance class but a confident young woman who has a powerful voice begging to be heard.

Overall this is a must watch from the BFI Flare programme. It’s an emotional and sweet insight into the struggles of growing up queer and finding your place within your community.

This article was written by:

Lauren Conlon Harper

Lauren Conlon Harper


Lauren's a media production student based in LJMU. Originally from Belfast, she first got into film at Queens Film Theatre's Takeover Festival where she planned and programed the annual event. She is an aspiring filmmaker / producer and aims to give those rarely heard a platform to tell their stories