Every January, the Sundance Film Festival brings us breathtaking performances and riveting narratives that speak to a diverse audience.
This year, Sundance promises to bring a bevy of compelling LGBT films and documentaries to Park City, focusing on sexual exploration, alienation, familial tension and other queer themes.
Below, we’ve assembled a list of some of the great LGBT offerings at this year’s festival. Learn about them now before they hit theaters.
The Sundance Film Festival runs January 21 to 31 in Park City, Utah
As You Are
A coming-of-age tale from newcomer Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, As You Are sends us weaving through the memories of Sarah, Mark and Jack, three teenagers struggling to come to terms with friendship and love in the early nineties.
These struggles are especially difficult for Mark and Jack as they navigate their complicated feelings for one another, feelings that are routinely rejected by the people around them.
Why We’re Excited: Always here for films that interrogate what it’s like to grow up LGBT, plus this film stars the fierce Amandla Stenberg, of Hunger Games fame.
From Sundance alum So Yong Kim comes the quiet and cinematic Lovesong. The film follows a single mother, Sarah, as she negotiates relationships with her absent husband and her old friend Mindy.
Why We’re Excited: Kim is a master of silence, a gift which we’re sure will be put to good use in this examination of the gray areas that exist in relationships. Plus, Riley Keough has been getting high praise for her restrained performance of the isolated and lost Sarah.
In Chris Kelly’s Other People, gay comedy writer David moves from New York City to Sacramento to care for his dying mother, the first time he’s been home in nearly a decade.
Family is a tender subject for many gays, but Kelly doesn’t shy away from either David’s grief over his mother’s failing health, or the frustration he feels having to circumventing his not-so-inclusive relatives.
Why We’re Excited: The discomfort David (Friday Night Lights’s Jessie Pulmans) has with at living at home again will ring familiar for many. And the cast is rounded out by the superb June Squibb and Molly Shannon.
Southside With You
Coming on the helm of President Obama’s final term in office, Richard Tanne’s charming Southside With You tells the story of Michelle and Barack Obama’s first date.
Though there’s definitely some poetic license taken in the telling of this tale, the material is engaging nonetheless, and beautifully renders the romance between the power couple.
Why We’re Excited: We know— Southside With You isn’t a gay film, per se. But it’s a beautiful romance focused on a pair many would seek to marginalize. And both the Obamas have done more for LGBT rights than any other First Couple.
Raised in a strict Korean family in Los Angeles, high schooler David Cho is, to say the least, repressed. He spends all his time studying for the SATs and working at his family’s restaurant—until he secretly takes a job at a Korean spa that reveals to him the mysterious and forbidden world of gay sex.
Why We’re Excited: We need more films that explore, um, exploration—especially ones that aren’t solely trained on the experiences of white gay men.
In her exhilirating documentary Kiki, filmmaker Sara Jordenö dives into the world of New York’s vogue competitions
Why We’re Excited: We fell in love with Paris is Burning’s depiction of the 1980s ball scene, and we’re dying to see how the community has evolved. Plus, there’s all the gag-worthy dancing!
Suited follows customers at Bindle & Keep, a bespoke tailor that caters to a diverse LGBT community in Brooklyn.
Visionaries Rae and Daniel push past gender norms to create outfits for who their clients truly want to be, not who the fashion industry would have them be.
Why We’re Excited: Gender-fluidity in fashion is always a fascinating topic, one gaining more acceptance in the mainstream.
First Girl I Loved
While covering a softball game for her school’s newspaper, 17-year-old Anne falls head over heels for softball superstar Sasha. The two chat after the game and the electricity sends Anne on a journey toward first love and, inevitably, heartbreak.
Why We’re Excited: It’s refreshing to see a film address young queer love without a lot of shame or baggage. Though their relationship has its ups and downs, it rarely has to do with them being gay.
Following a group of loosely connected women in Montana, Certain Women works to demystify the American West as a macho paradise. Instead, Director Kelly Reichardt paints it as a land of women grappling with desperation, loss and sexual exploration.
Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Night Moves) is known for her observational directing style, which allows the viewer to experience these rich and complex characters without passing judgement.
Why We’re Excited: The cast (Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams) is killer and the wide-open setting of Montana makes for a gorgeous backdrop.
Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures
Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato invite us into the mesmerizing and troubling world of queer photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in this documentary, heading to HBO later in the year.
Look at the Pictures includes interviews with Mapplethorpe’s close friends and family, and examples of some of his most provocative work.
Why We’re Excited: Mapplethorpe’s photographs are iconic, and his treatment at the hands of Jessie Helms and other conservative politicians is a seminal part of LGBT history.
Two brothers pledge a frat in the latest offering from Andrew Neel, but keg stands, all-night parties and homoerotic exploits give way to brutal hazings and a world of terror and violence.
Why We’re Excited: Goat promises to delve into the complicated issues of brotherhood and masculinity. Also, it’s got Nick Jonas in it.
“Rescuing” a baby from what she believes to be a negligent mother, Lu (Ellen Page) seeks refuge in the only safe place she knows: Her ex-boyfriend’s mother (Allison Janney), who presumes the baby is her grandchild.
Talulah reunites Juno co-stars Page and Janney as an odd couple wrestling with the challenges of raising a child.
Why We’re Excited: The out actress and the staunch ally are dynamite actresses—we’re confident their talent (and chemistry) will be evident on screen.