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Sundance: What To See...Gay or Otherwise...

Sundance: What To See...Gay or Otherwise...

This was the year Sundance went back to being a solid film festival and more than a spot to schmooze and load up on gift bags. From Gay and Lesbian themed films to quirky features, Sundance had something for all movie lovers.

Sundance this year was back to being a film festival. In past years, Main Street was lined with lounges and celeb gifting suites. There were sponsored parties and an embarrassing amount of gift bags. Well, no more. Gone were the hoards of marketing street teams handing out samples and flyering every free space within a three-mile radius. Instead, it was a leaner, more focused group of people who actually care about the business of film.

I did make it to see a few films myself. Shorts are always a crapshoot, and while I love the sampling aspect, where I get to experience multiple stories with only a two-hour commitment, I detest sitting through the painful films to see the gems. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised with the shorts program I chose, as every film in the line up was excellent and worth seeing. The standouts included:

Acting for the Camera: A 15 minute short directed by Justin Nowell and staring Joseph Urla and Mallory June. The film takes a slice from an acting class where the girl is asked to reenact the orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally. It is tense, awkward and downright brutally brilliant as her teacher goads her into really playing the part (and making viewers squirm as a result).

Boutonniere: A 10-minute short directed by lesbian filmmaker Coley Sohn and starring Sara Swain and Wendi McLendon Covey. We agonize with a simple teenage girl as she attempts to survive her overbearing mother's exuberant plans for a prom (and life) she’d rather not attend. View a trailer at

The Young and Evil: A 15-minute short written and directed by Julian Breece and staring Vaughn Lowery. A highly intelligent, but troubled, gay black teenager sets out to seduce an HIV-positive prevention advocate into giving him the virus. Breece did an excellent job of showing the flip side of how someone lands in that disturbing, but all too common mindset of destruction and manipulation.

Lymelife: A long-awaited, feature length sophomore effort for screenwriters Derick and Steven Martini. This engaging and authentic coming-of-age story stars Alec Baldwin, Kieran Culkin, Rory Culkin, Jill Hennessy, Timothy Hutton, Cynthia Nixon and Emma Roberts.

Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin) is a typical 15-year-old boy growing up in late-1970s Long Island. His suburban existence is primarily marked by a nerdy interest in Star Wars, fending off bullies at high school, his longtime crush on neighbor/best friend Adrianna Bragg (Emma Roberts) and navigating the dysfunctional terrain of his parents' rocky marriage -- all against the paranoid backdrop of a Lyme disease outbreak, which has freaked out Scott's high-strung mother, Brenda (Jill Hennessy), and has already claimed Adrianna's father, Charlie (Timothy Hutton), as a victim. With Charlie out of work due to his illness, Adrianna's mother, Melissa (Cynthia Nixon), takes a job working for Scott's father, Mickey (Alec Baldwin), a successful real-estate developer, and soon embarks on a messy affair.

When eldest son Jimmy (Kieran Culkin) returns from army training and confronts his father about Mickey's less-than-discreet adultery both families are forever changed by the devastating consequences. Drawing from their own childhoods, director Derick Martini and his brother and co-writer, Steven Martini, bring a palpable sense of place and authenticity to Lymelife. Their alternately funny and emotionally devastating script, brought to life by a talented roster of actors, poignantly reinvents both the suburban drama and the coming-of-age story at the same time.

The other benefit to a more slim and trim Sundance was that I could actually get a seat on the shuttles and at the panel discussions at the Queer Lounge. The QL provides the LGBT community a central place to find information and programming on queer films at the festival and issues impacting our community. Additionally, they historically host some of the best parties! Topics covered in Queer Lounge Panels this year included: 




I also stopped into the QL to watch the historical inauguration of President Obama. You could have heard a pin drop in the room as people watched with excitement and intense emotion. I did notice former NBA player John Amaechi, who also participated in a panel on homophobia in communities of color, in the lounge watching Obama sworn in.

All in all, Sundance 2009 went well. While the snow held out, there was no shortage of strong content, with an impressive number of films incorporating LBGT characters and storylines. Keep ‘em coming!

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Jenn Kennedy