The Sundance Film Festival, one of the largest independent film festivals in the US, started on January 16 in Park City, Utah. This year’s lineup includes over half a dozen LGBT-related pictures. Likely not all of them will make it to a theater near you, but knowing Sundance, they’re all worth checking out.
The films include:
The story of three Native Americans in young adulthood struggling to get out of the Indian reservation they grew up on—a student about to leave for college, a father-to-be, and a promiscuous male-to-female transsexual who wants to become a model. Felixia, the aspiring model, is played by real-life MTF actress Carmen Moore in her first “serious” movie role.
“Love Is Strange”
In a movie that echoes the case of the Catholic schoolteacher recently fired for marrying his boyfriend, “Love” is about a couple, Ben and George, who finally marry after thirty-nine years together. When the Catholic school that is George’s employer finds out, however, he’s fired, forcing the two to move. Unable to find a new place right away, George becomes the temporary roommate of two gay cops next door, while Ben moves to Brooklyn to live with his nephew’s family. The unexpected living situation is difficult for the couple, and they soon find their relationship is not the only one tested.
“The Case Against 8”
When voters approved California’s Proposition 8 in November 2008, once again banning same-sex marriage, it led to a high-profile case and trial that lasted over five years before finally being overturned for good. Filmmakers Ben Cotner and Ryan White were behind the scenes with cameras the whole way through, resulting in a documentary that covers footage of a trial largely closed to the public that ended up being part of one of the most important civil rights battles in American history.
The transition from girl to woman can be chaotic enough on its own, but sixteen-year-old Billie has to deal with another wrench in the works—her mother’s transition to male. Billie moves in with her father for the duration, but because she and her mother have always been very close, they agree to get together every Tuesday during this year of change. Still, when Billie’s mother becomes less available emotionally, Billie begins privately exploring her own sexuality and identity with two of her fellow students, both older than she.
“To be Takei”
George Takei, first known as Hikaru Sulu on the original “Star Trek,” became even more of a celebrity when he came out in 2005, when he was already an outspoken LGBT advocate. This documentary, by Jennifer Kroot, is a film biography of Takei’s life—his years in an Arkansas Japanese-American internment camp in early childhood, the beginning of his acting career in a time and place when Asians were rarely cast in anything, his role in the groundbreaking “Star Trek,” all the way through to his present LGBT activism and life with husband Brad.
“The Foxy Merkins”
Here’s a film description you’ll never see in a Hollywood flick: “a female prostitute buddy comedy.” Written as both an homage and a parody of iconic male hustler films, it’s about two lesbian hookers who wind their way through a world of bargain-hunting housewives and double-dealing conservative women.
The movie producers are actually still fundraising on Kickstarter to get the film distributed “for real”; their campaign can be found here.
When a young Londoner named Kai dies suddenly, both his boyfriend Richard and his Chinese-Cambodian mother Junn are left reeling and grief-stricken. Knowing that Kai was the only family Junn had left, Richard does his best to reach out to her, though even through her limited English she has made it clear she dislikes him. The two don’t even share a common language, but Richard hires a translator in the hopes that removing one barrier can take down another.
Many children of immigrant families find themselves caught between the ways of “the old country” and the new, but for Shirin, an Iranian-American young woman, being bisexual only complicates matters further. Feeling especially invisible in the wake of her brother’s recently announced betrothal to an Iranian bride, Shirin reacts by privately rebelling, indulging in not only a series of pansexual liaisons but trying to pin down how her relationship with now ex-girlfriend Maxine fell apart.