The Sundance Film Festival's competitive lineup shines a light on the film world's most promising up-and-comers, but for festival goers seeking star-power and quirky extremes, the "out of competition" slate is typically the place to look.
This year is no exception, as the 2011 lineup includes new films from well-known directors like Kevin Smith, Morgan Spurlock, and Lee Tamahori and will feature actors like Al Pacino, Channing Tatum, Sigourney Weaver, and Ewan McGregor. Exactly where the LGBT characters and storylines will pop up is always something of a surprise, but a few films have already distinguished themselves as worth looking forward to. Whether or not any of them will be the next Kids Are All Right-type Sundance success story remains to be seen.
Among the highest profile of these will be My Idiot Brother, directed by Jesse Peretz and starring Paul Rudd as a former marijuana dealer who moves in with each of his three sisters after being released from prison. In addition to Elizabeth Banks and Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel will play one of the sisters, whose character is in a relationship with Rashida Jones.
Another of the fest's Dramatic Premieres will be Kevin Smith's highly anticipated horror film Red State, which follows a "group of misfits [who] encounter extreme fundamentalism in Middle America." The film's villain was inspired by anti-gay Westboro preacher Fred Phelps, who was interviewed by Smith's friend Malcom Ingram for his (Smith-produced) documentary Small Town Gay Bar. Though plot details are still being kept under wraps, it's probably safe to assume the movie will address LGBT issues in some way. John Goodman and Melissa Leo co-star.
Documentary directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato are famous for their engagingly off-beat takes on subjects like Tammy Faye Baker and Heidi Fleiss, and as producers they are responsible for some of the most LGBT-inclusive reality shows currently on television, including Drag Race, The Arrangement, and The Fabulous Beekman Boys. Now they've turned their creative lens on transgender advocate Chaz Bono in the film Becoming Chaz, which will follow Cher's famous offspring through his transition.
In the Sundance Spotlight section, Gregg Araki's film Kaboom will combine sci-fi themes with the "sexual awakening of a group of college students." Kaboom won the inaugural "Queer Palm" at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and focuses on a young man (played by Thomas Dekker) beginning to explore his bisexuality, and his best friend who is a lesbian (played by Haley Bennet). Check out the racy trailer here.
The "Park City at Midnight" series often features some of the fest's most outrageous entries, and next year will include the Madeleine Olnek-directed feature Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same. Just as the title suggests, the film will follow the burgeoning relationship between a greeting card store employee and a (presumably co-dependent) lesbian space alien, with two government agents tracking their every move.
Finally, the New Frontier program will feature the festival's more avant-garde entries, and includes the film !Women Art Revolution from director Lynn Hersman Leeson. The film's subject is women who have made art as a form of protest and activism and includes a score/soundtrack from out-musician Carrie Brownstein, formerly of the band Sleater-Kinney.
Of course half of the fun of Sundance is the surprises, so expect to see the list of LGBT-inclusive films continue to grow. The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 20-30 in Park City, Utah. More details can be found on the festival's website.