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Qu(e)eries: Just How Queer Is This Year's Sundance Film Festival Gonna Be?

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire January 17, 2013 at 2:05PM

Quick, easy answer: Very. Despite its location smack dab in the middle of one of the most conservative, homophobic states in America, the Sundance Film Festival has always been an extraordinary friend of Dorothy, and this year will prove no exception.
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"Kill Your Darlings"

Quick, easy answer: Very. Despite its location smack dab in the middle of one of the most conservative, homophobic states in America, the Sundance Film Festival has always been an extraordinary friend of Dorothy, and this year will prove no exception.

Since the festival's inception nearly 30 years ago, the vast majority of the best American independent films by and/or about queer people have screened at Sundance, including "The Times of Harvey Milk," "Longtime Companion," "Poison," "The Living End," "Swoon," "Paris is Burning," "Go Fish," "High Art," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," "The Kids Are All Right," "Pariah" and -- last year -- both "How To Survive a Plague" and "Keep The Lights On" (and I could truly go on and on and on).

On the phone last week, the festival's Director, John Cooper (who happens to be queer himself), mused about why he thinks Sundance has been such a hotbed for queer filmmakers.

"I think in general when you're looking for original stories, and when you're looking for filmmakers who are fearless and when you're looking for stories that are very immediate to our culture right now, queer film is going to pop up a lot," Cooper said. "Of course, we don't program that way. Each film is selected on its own merit!"

Of the 115 feature films screening at Sundance, at least 11 of them are directed or co-directed by an openly queer filmmaker, while 12 feature prominent queer content and characters. Those are ratios that would please Kinsey and collectively these films should end up becoming a sizeable portion of LGBT film festival programming for the next year (though Berlin and SXSW are likely to add a few more options in the next couple of months).

Cooper -- who noted the premieres of "Paris Is Burning" and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" as two of highlights of his 20+ years working for the festival -- said that the most notable transition in queer filmmaking he's noticed over his time at the festival been this moving away from the coming out narrative.

"It's not enough to just be a coming out story or a coming of age story anymore," he said. "Or a both of those together story. I think what we're seeing is a deeper dive into sexuality in general. What sexual relationships are and how they reverberate in our society. I think it has to be one step past in the originality of the storyline itself."

So where are we going to see that emerge in the next 11 days? From David Sedaris and Allen Ginsberg to James Franco and Pussy Riot, head to the next page for a complete list of the feature films with various queer interest factors that are screening at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival (though note there's also quite a few short films, including one by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and another co-written by John Cameron Mitchell).

David Kruta "Concussion"
After Tiller
Section: U.S. Documentary Competition
The Gist: Martha Shane and Lana Wilson's documentary goes inside the lives of the only four doctors in America that still provide late abortions after the 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller. 
Queer Interest Factor: Character

Ass Backwards
Section: Midnight
The Gist: Chris Nelson's road trip movie -- co-written and co-starring Casey Wilson and June Raphael -- follows two women who head back to their hometown to claim the beauty pageant crown they wanted as children.
Queer Interest Factor: Director

C.O.G.
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
The Gist: The first adaptation of David Sedaris' work, "C.O.G." -- directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez ("Easier With Practice") -- follows a character based on Sedaris himself who travels to Oregon to work on an apple farm.
Queer Interest Factor: Director and Content

Concussion
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
The Gist: Stacie Passon's film follows a lesbian (Robin Weigert) who wakes up from a blow to the head and decides to leave her wife and kids and find herself in a most unusual way.
Queer Interest Factor: Content

Crystal Fairy and Magic Magic
Section: World Dramatic Competition and Midnight
The Gist: Openly gay Sebastian Silva comes to Sundance with an impressive two narrative films, both starring Michael Cera.
Queer Interest Factor: Director

Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
The Gist: One of two films in narrative competition directed by openly gay women, Francesca Gregorini's "Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes" follows a girl who becomes preoccupied with her new neighbour who bears a resemblance to her dead mother.
Queer Interest Factor: Director

"Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes"
Fire In The Blood
Section: World Documentary Competition
The Gist: Dylan Mohan Gray's doc follows the group of people that fought back against Western governments blocking low-cost antiretroviral drugs from reaching AIDS stricken Africa.
Queer Interest Factor: Content

God Loves Uganda
Section: U.S. Documentary Competition
The Gist: This competition doc directed by Roger Ross Williams takes on the horrifying situation facing LGBT people in Uganda thanks to American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting "sexual immorality."
Queer Interest Factor: Content

Interior. Leather. Bar.
Section: New Frontier
The Gist: James Franco and Travis Mathews (who directed last year's queer film festival staple "I Want Your Love") team up to re-image what was lost in the rumored 40 minutes of explicit S&M footage cut from William Friedkin's "Cruising."
Queer Interest Factor: Director and Content

Kill Your Darlings
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
The Gist: John Krokidas makes his feature directorial debut with this all-star take on the murder that brought together Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs at Columbia University in 1944.
Queer Interest Factor: Director and Content

kink
Section: Midnight
The Gist: James Franco's second contribution on this list comes from producing this doc on the unlikely pornographers whose 9 to 5 work weeks are spent within the confines of the San Francisco armory that houses the porn production facilities of Kink.com.
Queer Interest Factor: Content

The Lifeguard
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
The Gist: "The Lifeguard" features prominent queer characters as it follows a former valedictorian (Kristen Bell) who quits her reporter job in New York and returns to her childhood home in Connecticut.
Queer Interest Factor: Content

Lovelace
Section: Premieres
The Gist: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have directed some of the best LGBT-themed documentaries of all time, and come to Sundance this year with their second narrative film (after "Howl," which opened Sundance a few years ago). It follows the story of Linda Lovelace, the porn star and media darling from "Deep Throat."
Queer Interest Factor: Directors

May in Summer
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
The Gist: Openly lesbian director Cherien Dabis follows up her Sundance hit "Amreeka" with "May in Summer," which depicts a bride-to-be who is forced to re-evaluate her life when she reunite swith her family in Jordan.
Queer Interest Factor: Director

Pit Stop
Section: Next
The Gist: Yen Tan's "Pit Stop" follows two working-class gay men (Bill Heck, Marcus DeAnda) in a small Texas town and a love that isn't quite out of reach.
Queer Interest Factor: Director and Content

Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer
Section: World Documentary Competition
The Gist: Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s new doc takes on the controversial trial of the radical feminist activists Pussy Riot. The group had risen up against the legitimacy of Vladimir Putin’s 2011 re-election, leading to the arrest and eventual sentencing of three members of the group, which in itself led to an international outcry of support to free Pussy Riot.
Queer Interest Factor: Content

Valentine Road
Section: U.S. Documentary Competition
The Gist: In 2008, eighth grader Brandon McInerney shot and killed openly queer classmate Larry King. Unraveling this tragedy from point of impact, Marta Cunningham's film reveals the heartbreaking circumstances that led to the shocking crime as well as it's aftermath.
Queer Interest Factor: Content

"Que(e)ries" is a new biweekly column by Indiewire Senior Editor Peter Knegt. Email him for suggestions for future columns at peter@indiewire.com. He'd love for it to a be a collaborative effort.

This article is related to: Que(e)ries, Sundance Film Festival