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Your Guide to a Very Queer Sundance 2024

The festival takes place in-person and online Jan. 18–28

The Sundance Film Festival, as always, is full of offerings that will be of interest to the LGBTQ+ community when it touches down in Park City, Utah on Jan. 18. But even if you don't have a plane ticket to get there, you can still get a ticket to Sundance — the festival can be experienced virtually, as well. No matter how you attend, keep these films, which will surely appeal to queer audiences, on your radar:

U.S. Documentary

Frida
Director: Carla Gutierrez

An intimately raw and magical journey through the life, mind and heart of iconic artist Frida Kahlo that is told through her own words for the very first time — drawn from her diary, revealing letters, essays and print interviews — and brought vividly to life by lyrical animation inspired by her unforgettable artwork. Carla Gutierrez, renowned for her masterful editing of films, brings artistry and a deep understanding of her subject to this directorial debut. Through a cacophony of rich archival sights, music and journal entries joyfully brought to life, we become immersed in Frida’s interior world, fears, arduous relationships and events that drove her indelible artistic creations. 


Love Machina
Director: Peter Sillen

Futurists Martine and Bina Rothblatt commission an advanced humanoid AI named Bina48 to transfer Bina’s consciousness from a human to a robot in an attempt to continue their once-in-a-galaxy love affair for the rest of time. Love Machina is where futurism meets love, where love meets humanity, where humanity meets AI. 

U.S. Dramatic

In the Summers
Director/screenwriter: Alessandra Lacorazza

On a journey that spans the formative years of their lives, two sisters navigate their loving but volatile father during their yearly summer visits to his home in Las Cruces, New Mexico. With grounded thoughtfulness, debut feature director Alessandra Lacorazza weaves a rich tapestry of memories in New Mexico as childhood and adolescence collide with the realities of adulthood. René Pérez Joglar (aka Residente) gives a layered and gut-wrenching performance as the charming-yet-troubled Vicente, struggling to fully connect with his daughters through games that slowly lose their luster in the shadow of his habits.

Ponyboi
Director: Esteban Arango. Screenwriter: River Gallo

Unfolding over the course of Valentine’s Day in New Jersey, a young intersex sex worker must run from the mob after a drug deal goes sideways, forcing him to confront his past. Ponyboi bursts off the screen in this bombastic, edgy and campy roller-coaster ride of a film. Flipping the script on the LGBTQ+ return home tale and the classic Jersey mobster saga, this neon-soaked story is not only full of action but also pure moments of tenderness. Complicated and hilarious, Ponyboi’s journey exposes a kaleidoscope of ways humanity is sugary sweet under hard surfaces. Backdrops of laundromats, diners and the Jersey Shore create a heightened sense of place and time that is at once precisely transportive and fantastically imaginary. 


Stress Positions
Director/screenwriter: Theda Hammel

Terry Goon is keeping strict quarantine in his ex-husband’s Brooklyn brownstone while caring for his nephew — a 19-year-old model from Morocco named Bahlul — bedridden in a full leg cast after an electric scooter accident. Unfortunately for Terry, everyone in his life wants to meet the model. "Stress Positions" is as much a finely tuned time capsule of the frantic fear and formative power of the pandemic as it is a road map out of dark places guided by a profound humanity. A careful balance between a consistent, razor-sharp humor and the development of a distinctive cinematic tone create a particular mood and energy that is not easily forgotten.

World Cinema Documentary

Agent of Happiness
Director: Arun Bhattarai. Screenwriter: Dorottya Zurbó

Amber is one of the many agents working for the Bhutanese government to measure people’s happiness levels among the remote Himalayan mountains. But will he find his own along the way? "Agent of Happiness" offers a unique take on the notoriously exoticized Bhutan and its unusual happiness policy. We follow Amber as he investigates various expressions of contentment across different households and lifestyles while navigating his own struggle as a Nepali minority. The holistic philosophy at the heart of the survey he conducts challenges the conventional metrics of fulfillment and success, often provoking some deeper soul-searching. The filmmakers elegantly capture many tender moments between Amber and his interlocutors, as well as some very revealing conversations filled with unflinching honesty and quiet wisdom.

World Cinema Dramatic

Layla
Director/screenwriter: Amrou Al-Kadhi

When Layla, a struggling Arab drag queen, falls in love for the first time, they lose and find themself in a transformative relationship that tests who they really are. Amrou Al-Kadhi’s propulsive direction shines alongside Bilal Hasna’s breakout performance, and while Layla, the character, may be going through some qualms about identity, the film itself is a proud queer love story — with all the complications involved. Under Al-Kadhi’s care, the audience is ushered into the sanctity of queer spaces, the nightclub and the beauty supply store, places for more than just entertainment, doors to a more embodied, honest existence, a home, an Eden of sorts. Al-Kadhi is unafraid to question who isn’t welcome in these spaces and the isolation one faces when certain demarcation becomes too clear to ignore. Layla is a tale of self-acceptance and community love, so come for some fun and boogie to all the club hits! There’s plenty of sparkle to go around.

Sebastian
Director/Screenwriter: Mikko Mäkelä

Max, a 25-year-old aspiring writer living in London, begins a double life as a sex worker in order to research his debut novel. In his assured sophomore feature, Finnish-British writer/director Mikko Mäkelä explores the transgressive power of queer sexuality and the transformative impact that can result from embracing a new identity. Far from simply informing his secretly autobiographical fiction writing, Max’s experiences as “Sebastian” awaken a deeper sense of self, unshackled from societal expectations. Ruaridh Mollica impresses in the lead role, embodying Max with an initially hesitant curiosity that blossoms into exhilaration and ease as he becomes subsumed within his nocturnal alias. Eschewing the sensationalism or moralizing that often accompanies stories of sex work, Sebastian instead offers a refreshing, sex-positive take in a film that ultimately celebrates the liberation that accompanies self-exploration.

Premieres

Look Into My Eyes
Director: Lana Wilson

A group of New York City psychics conduct deeply intimate readings for their clients, revealing a kaleidoscope of loneliness, connection and healing. 

Sue Bird: In the Clutch
Director/screenwriter: Sarah Dowland

In her 21-year professional career, WNBA basketball legend Sue Bird has won five Olympic gold medals and become the most successful point guard to ever play the game. Alongside her fiancée, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe, Sue confronts her next challenge: retiring from the only life she’s ever known.

1 Will Harper Still1
Will Ferrell and friend Harper Steele. Photo courtesy Sundance Film Festival.

Will & Harper
Director: Josh Greenbaum

When Will Ferrell finds out his close friend of 30 years is coming out as a trans woman, the two decide to embark on a cross-country road trip to process this new stage of their relationship in an intimate portrait of friendship, transition and America. Will Ferrell and Harper Steele are humorously and lovingly vulnerable in director Josh Greenbaum’s latest documentary, "Will & Harper." Through the frame of a decades-long friendship (and the windshield of Harper’s Jeep), the pair reconnect in emotional and unexpected ways as they journey across middle America. 

Episodic

Better Angels: The Gospel ­According to Tammy Faye
Director/screenwriter: Dana Adam Shapiro. Screenwriter: Helen Rollins

As told by her family, friends, and enemies, the meteoric rise, scandalous fall and unlikely resurrection of Tammy Faye, the “First Lady of the Electric Church,” poses an increasingly relevant question: How did we get the story so wrong? The Festival will present the first two episodes of this four-part documentary series.

Midnight

Love Lies Bleeding
Director/screenwriter: Rose Glass

Reclusive gym manager Lou falls hard for Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder headed through town to Las Vegas in pursuit of her dream. But their love ignites violence, pulling them deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family.

NEXT

Desire Lines
Director: Jules Rosskam. Screenwriters: Nate Gualtieri, Jules Rosskam

Past and present collide when an Iranian American trans man time-travels through an LGBTQ+ archive on a dizzying and erotic quest to unravel his own sexual desires. Leading trans academic and scholar Jules Rosskam makes his Sundance debut with this daring, sexy exploration of the interdependence of gender expression and sexuality. Deploying a hybrid approach, Rosskam blends a deeply intellectual interrogation of the archive, a sharp erotic imagination and a series of breathtakingly intimate interviews to create this layered document of transmasculine sexuality and its profoundly social roots and ripples.

SHORTS

27
Director/screenwriter: Flóra Anna Buda

Alice is 27 years old today. Even though she is suffocating a bit, she still lives with her parents and tends to live in her dreams to escape her dreary everyday life.

Bold Eagle
Director/screenwriter: Whammy Alcazaren

Trapped at home with hallucinogenic drugs and his talking cat, an “alter” anonymously performs lascivious acts on the Internet, seeking refuge in the strong arms of strange men, hoping to masturbate his way to true happiness.

Alok
Director: Alex Hedison

A compelling portrait of ALOK, acclaimed nonbinary author, poet, comedian and public speaker. Executive produced by Jodie Foster.

Merman
Director: Andre Chambers. Screenwriter: Sterling Hampton IV

A 58-year-old Black queer man speaks the truth about his life as an emergency nurse, a leather enthusiast, husband and civil rights advocate.

Didn’t Think I’d See You Here
Director/Screenwriter: Dylan Guerra

Rory thinks there’s a ghost haunting his shower and decides to investigate its origin. But when he goes to a party and meets a romantic interest, his spectral mystery begins to unravel.

Grace
Director: Natalie Jasmine Harris

Sixteen-year-old Grace prepares for her baptism in the rural 1950s South. When she learns she must repent before the ritual, she begins to question the budding romantic feelings she has toward her best friend, Louise. 

More films and information can be found at festival.sundance.org

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Topics: Film
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