Sundance has traditionally been a safe haven for films with gay, lesbian and transgender content. This year is no different, with a number of features, shorts and special events being planned for both LGBT filmmakers and their supporters. GLAAD, the national organization that surveys the media industries and advocates for positive gay messages in film and television (not a small task in this election year where several Republican candidates are stoking their base with homophobia rhetoric), is presenting several seminar panels and hosting one of the coolest shindigs at Sundance next week. As far as the LGBT films are concerned, the one that is attracting the most attention is the highly anticipated KEEP THE LIGHTS ON, director Ira Sachs’ newest film examines the evolving relationship of a gay couple over the course of many years and more than a few hardships (echoing the themes of the UK indie hit WEEKEND).
Other LGBT features that are attracting early buzz include YOUNG AND WILD by director Marialy Rivas and MOSQUITA Y MARI by Aurora Guerrero, which share the theme of teenage girls trying to navigate their evolving sexual orientation, in Santiago, Chile, and Los Angeles respectively. The scene shifts to small town America in MY BEST DAY, American indie director Erin Grenwell’s charming tale of the comings and goings in one typical Americana town that includes a lesbian “handyman” who adjusts to the new rules of greater visibility and wider acceptance filtering from the blue states. Also high on the radar is director Lynn Shelton (the breakthrough auteur of the indie hit HUMPDAY) who returns to Sundance with YOUR SISTER’S SISTER, the story of a lesbian’s regrettable one night stand with her sister’s male best friend that leads to complications and revelations. Documentary films that illuminate the history and challenges of the LGBT community include LOVE FREE OR DIE by director Macky Alston, an illuminating portrait of the life and work of the country’s first openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson and HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, a reminder of the courage and determination of activists and advocates for recognition and solutions during the height of the AIDS epidemic and the legacy that has allowed millions of people with HIV to live and prosper to this date. A diverse group of short fiction and documentary films are also studded throughout the program, making for a fascinating look at the zeitgeist of the community and the continued challenges and rewards of the LGBT moment. For more information on the LGBT films and events at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, visit: http://www.glaad.org/events/cineglaad