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Everything Queer We Loved At Sundance 2023

Everything Queer We Loved At Sundance 2023

Fairyland, Cassandro, My Animal
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

This year’s festival was awesomely gay.

rachiepants

Sundance Film Festival 2023 might be over, but we’re still thinking about all the incredible films we saw this time around.

From dramas to comedies, sci-fi, and even horror films, this year’s fest offered a bevy of queer storytelling. Here’s what touched our hearts, made us think, and absolutely terrified us (in the best ways) from this year’s showings.

Birth/Rebirth

Birth/Rebirth

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

In this feature debut by writer and director Laura Moss, Judy Reyes stars a queer single mother who, after tragedy strikes, finds herself caught up with a morgue technician (Marin Ireland) who’s cracked the secret to reanimation. This film was one of the shockers of the fest: transgressive, moving, and horrifying in turns. Taking inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which was inspired in part by the (queer) writer’s loss of a child to miscarriage, it puts a modern and deeply subversive spin on a classic horror tale.

Acquired by Shudder.

Eileen

Eileen

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Eileen is director William Oldroyd’s follow-up to the excellent Lady Macbeth. This time around, he adapted the book Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh. The film is set in Massachusetts in the winter of 1964, where a young secretary at the local prison, Eileen (Thomasin McKenzie), becomes enthralled by the new counselor Rebecca (Anne Hathaway), who has joined the prison staff. The two strike up a friendship and Eileen becomes increasingly infatuated with her new friend. However, things take a dark and complicated turn when Rebecca reveals her secret. The film calls to mind shades of Heavenly Creatures and Bound as two women sharing an attraction fall into criminal behavior. Anne Hathaway is a standout in the film, vacillating between breezy confidence and brittle, barely contained rage.

Distribution is still in negotiations.

Cassandro

Cassandro

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Gael García Bernal brings the real-life story of gay amateur wrestler Saúl Armendáriz to life in this feature directed by Roger Ross Williams. Armendáriz rose to international fame after shedding his original luchador persona, El Topo, and becoming the exótico (a luchador who performs in drag) Cassandro, the “Liberace of Lucha Libre.” It’s a moving film about the power of unapologetically embracing your most authentic self. Cassandro is passionate, inspiring, and a breath of fresh air. Bernal has built a career on reliably stellar performances, but here he offers audiences his best yet.

Releasing on Prime Video in 2023

Fairyland

Fairyland

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Andrew Durham’s coming-of-age tale set in ’70s and ’80s era San Francisco stole our hearts at the fest. The film follows a father-daughter relationship in the lead-up to the AIDS crisis. Scoot McNairy is stirring in his role of Steve, a man who’s finally living his authentic self. Both Emilia Jones and Nessa Dougherty, who play his daughter Alysia at different ages, tug at the heartstrings.

Currently seeking distribution.

My Animal

My Animal

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Lycanism offers a potent metaphor for queerness, and in My Animal, director Jacqueline Castel uses it to great effect. The film follows Heather (Bobbi Salvör Menuez), a queer girl in a small town with a deadly canine secret, who quickly falls for Amandla Stenberg’s Jonny. The two have a fiery, instant chemistry that peaks in various surrealist (and sexy) dream sequences. Strong performances and a stellar score made this the most vibe-y and perhaps coolest of all the films PRIDE screened this year.

Acquired by Paramount.

Infinity Pool

Infinity Pool

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The latest from modern master of horror Brandon Cronenberg sees a couple (Alexander Skarsgård and Cleopatra Coleman) being pulled into a spiral of moral, spiritual, and physical corruption while vacationing at an elite Eastern European resort. Mia Goth continues to show why she is the rising star with another deliciously unhinged performance. Not for the faint of heart, this bodily fluid-drenched anticapitalist endeavor is a cathartically cutting takedown of those for whom economic privilege has made feel above consequence.

In theaters now.

Shortcomings

Shortcomings

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

This charming comedy, Shortcomings, from actor-turned-director Randall Park follows Ben (Justin H. Min) who, like so many others, is having a rough time in the romance department. But when he moves from the West Coast to New York, he’s forced to come to terms with what he really wants. Sherry Cola, who plays Ben’s queer best friend Alice, steals the show.

Currently seeking distribution.

Talk To Me

Talk To Me

Courtesy of A24

Sure to chill and thrill audiences Talk To Me is about to become A24's latest horror hit. The film follows a young woman who becomes obsessed with speaking with the other side after an incident at a party. The film also stars nonbinary up-and-comer Zoe Terakes in a scene-stealing role.

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Rachel Shatto

EIC of PRIDE.com

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.