With its customarily diverse slate of films, the Sundance Film Festival has proven to be a reliable homestead for works that focus on queer perspectives and the LGBTQ experience. Last year saw the premieres of “First Girl I Loved,” “Other People” and the award-winning “Spa Night,” and this year is no different. With the recent announcement of the films in the Competition slate--which is comprised of narrative features and documentaries from the U.S. and abroad--the selections offer a wide array of LGBTQ representations.
It’s significant that the global selection includes more LGBTQ-themed films than the American offerings considering the timely international issues that still need to be overcome both socially and politically. Festival Director John Cooper told Variety, “It’s an interesting view of what international cinema thinks of Sundance, and what they think it can do for them. We got a lot of films dealing in subjects that countries haven’t necessarily dealt with that much before, especially regarding the sexuality of characters.”
Here are four LGBTQ-themed films in the Sundance lineup--from the U.S., UK, South Africa and Mexico--that explore the identities and perspectives of LGBTQ protagonists.
'Beach Rats' (U.S.)
“Beach Rats” is writer-director Eliza Hittman’s highly anticipated follow-up to her debut film, 2013’s “It Felt Like Love,” which deservedly garnered her multiple Breakthrough Filmmaker mentions at year-end awards. While “It Felt Like Love”channeled a young girl in deep Brooklyn experiencing a sexual awakening, “Beach Rats”is expected to deliver her male counterpoint to teenage self-realization. “It Felt Like Love” was a breathtakingly textured coming-of-age film, and this sophomore feature sounds just as mesmerizingly intuitive and psychologically acute--with the main character torn between a potential girlfriend and clandestine dates from older men he’s met online. Whatever the result, you can expect “Beach Rats” to capture the ethereal, aimless qualities of uncertain adolescence with sensitive precision.
'God’s Own Country' (UK)
This debut feature film from writer-director Francis Lee received funding support from the reliable tastemakers at the British Film Institute (BFI), so there’s little doubt of Lee’s very capable visionary abilities. Set in the bucolic landscape of West Yorkshire, farmer-born shepherd Johnny (Josh O’Connor) is faced with frustrated emotions and urges when a male Romanian migrant worker arrives, pulling Johnny between familial obligations and budding love. Beautiful cinematography and roaming vistas are guaranteed, with the core relationship of the two young men taking center stage in a journey toward intense and potentially bittersweet romance.
'I Dream in Another Language' (Mexico)
Director Ernesto Contreras and screenwriter Carlos Contreras confront and explore the provisional endurance of language and the complicated history of accepting homosexuality within indigenous Mexican culture. When a young linguist investigates the nearly obsolete dialect of Zikril, he uncovers a deeply rooted and forbidden love story between two men who haven’t communicated in decades. Hidden far in the jungles and history of Mexico, “I Dream in Another Language” (“Sueño en Otro Idioma”) aims to reconcile the future of both love and language that are on the precipice of fading away.
'The Wound' (South Africa)
Director John Trengove investigates the generational divide within accepting one’s sexuality in this drama about Xolani, a man who is part of a group tasked with educating and performing the rites of manhood to young men in the mountains of South Africa. While providing emotional and disciplined support, Xolani’s mysterious relationship with a man in the village piques the interest of one city boy being initiated and sets off a complex string of revealed forbidden love and self-actualization. Given the strict enforcement of gender roles, “The Wound” examines the concept and construct of masculinity that is bestowed upon--and perhaps suffocates--tribal men in South Africa.