What’s Queer At The 2017 Sundance Film Festival?

Sexual awakenings, gay history and family dysfunction all play out on the big screen.

Every January, the Sundance Film Festival brings us breathtaking performances and riveting narratives that speak to a diverse audience. Running January 19 to 29, this year’s fest promises a bounty of compelling LGBT films, shorts and documentaries, from the around the world. They address gay history, sexual exploration, familial tension, transitioning and other queer themes.

Read about them below, before they hit the big screen.

Bayard & Me

bayard-and-me
Bayard & Me
U.S.A. (Director: Matt Wolf)
Bayard Rustin was one of the key architects of the Civil Rights Movement, but was forced behind the scenes because he was also unapologetically gay. He was 30 years older than Walter Naegle when the two met and fell in love, but their relationship endured until Rustin’s death in 1987.

Wolf’s documentary short, adapted from a StoryCorps segment, looks at this unique love story from a time when marriage equality wasn’t even a pipe dream. (Rustin actually legally adopted Naegle to afford them basic legal protections as a couple.)

 

Beach Rats

Beach Rats
Beach Rats
U.S.A. (Director/screenwriter: Eliza Hittman)

The followup to Hittman’s acclaimed debut, It Felt Like Love, sees an aimless Brooklyn teen navigate the boundaries of his identity as he bounces between delinquent friends, a potential girlfriend and older men he’s met online.

Cast: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge, Neal Huff. World Premiere

 

Call Me by Your Name

call-me-by-your-name
Call Me By Your Name
Italy, France (Director: Luca Guadagnino, Screenwriters: James Ivory, Luca Guadagnino)
Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is the sensitive only child of an American-European family vacationing in their villa on the Italian countryside. An charismatic academic (Armie Hammer) comes to help Elio’s father with his research, and embarks on an illicit affair with the introverted teen. (Based on the acclaimed book by André Aciman.)

Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois. World Premiere

 

The Chances


U.S.A. (Director: Anna Kerrigan, Creators: Josh Feldman, Shoshannah Stern)
Kate and Michael, two best friends who are deaf, see their relationship evolve as Kate adjusts to being married and Michael tries to get over his ex-boyfriend. Five episodes of this new web series will debut this year at Sundance.

Cast: Josh Feldman, Shoshannah Stern, Aaron Costa Ganis, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Darryl Stephens, Wilson Cruz. World Premiere

 

God’s Own Country

God's Own Country
God's Own Country
United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Francis Lee)

Francis Lee’s feature directorial debut sees an isolated young sheep farmer (Josh O’Connor) numb himself with binge drinking and casual sex. But the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker ignites a hidden desire that could change the course of his life.

Shot on the Yorkshire moors where Lee grew up, the film features breathtaking cinematography that matches its emotional weight. “This is very much a universal story of a young man learning how to trust and love,” says Protagonist Pictures CEO Mike Goodridge.

Cast: Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones. World Premiere

 

I Dream in Another Language (Sueño en otro idioma)

i-dream-in-another-language-1
I Dream In Another Language
Mexico, Netherlands (Director: Ernesto Contreras, Screenwriter: Carlos Contreras)

A young linguist travels to the jungle of Mexico to research a language on the verge of disappearing. Once there, he discoverers its last two speakers argued 50 years ago and have refused to speak to each other since.

Attempting to reunite them, the researcher discovers a secret past—and a forbidden love story.

Cast: Fernando Álvarez Rebeil, Eligio Meléndez, Manuel Poncelis, Fátima Molina, Juan Pablo de Santiago, Hoze Meléndez. World Premiere

 

If Not Love

zachary-booth-mitchell-winter
U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Rosemarie Troche, Key Collaborator: Bruce Allan)
Full of self-loathing after a gay hookup, a conflicted Christian carries out a mass shooting. What if his partner had convinced him to face himself? Would it have changed the tragic course of history?
Cast: Zachary Booth, Mitchell Winter.

 

Out of Exile: Daniel’s Story

daniel-pierce
U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Nonny de la Peña)
In August 2014, Daniel Ashley Pierce was assaulted by his family and thrown out of the house when they learned he was gay. De la Peña weaves audio from that brutal encounter with words of hope from Daniel and other LGBTQ youth.

 

This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 24:  YouTuber Gigi Gorgeous attends the YouTube Red Originals Experience during VidCon at the Anaheim Convention Center on June 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for YouTube)
FilmMagic
U.S.A. (Director: Barbara Kopple)

Even before her transition, YouTuber Gigi Gorgeous was posting popular fashion videos from her bedroom. Once she came out as a trans woman, her profile—and her perspective—grew by leaps and bounds.
World Premiere
 

The Wound

john-trengove-the-wound
South Africa (Director: John Trengove, Screenwriters: John Trengove, Thando Mgqolozana, Malusi Bengu)
Kwanda, a gay South African teen, travels from the city to the rural village his family comes from to undergo ritual circumcision. Recovering from the painful rite of passage he forms a strong bond with his caregiver, Xolani.

Soon, Kwanda begins to suspect Xolani might be having a secret gay relationship with another villager. When the truth is uncovered, Xolani’s future—and Kwanda’s very life—are put in jeopardy.

Cast: Nakhane Touré, Bongile Mantsai, Niza Jay Ncoyini. World Premiere

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery