In the 1950s, a group of gender nonconforming queer people regularly found refuge in a home called Casa Susanna in New York’s Catskills, where they were free to be themselves, whether they were gay men who simply wanted to wear clothes they couldn’t in their daily lives or trans women who couldn’t express their true identities. They staged performances for themselves, created photo shoots, and enjoyed the freedom the house represented and community it built.
First the subject of a 2005 photo book from Michel Hurst and Robert Swope, the legacy of the house is now explored in “Casa Susanna,” a documentary from French filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz (“Bambi: A French Woman”). The doc reunites former visitors to the house and works with an archive of photos and home footage to create a time capsule of the queer past that is vital for contemporary audiences to witness. It premiered at the recent Frameline Festival and is available right now on streaming platforms to keep Pride Month rolling through the rest of the year.