Your Guide to LGBT Inclusive Films at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival

Since it started 34 years ago, the Sundance Film Festival has become one of the most LGBT-inclusive festivals in the world, having served as a launchpad for the New Queer Cinema wave of the early 90s and helping to elevate great LGBT films every year since.  Most recently, that has included films like Pariah and The Kids Are All Right, and this year’s lineup looks to add to that prestigious list.

Social justice seems to be a major theme at this year’s festival, with a number of panels and features addressing issues like the Occupy movement and healthcare reform.  Among the new documentaries following this track are Macky Alston’s Love Free or Die, which focuses on the life and work of openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson, while How to Survive a Plague explores the passionate HIV/AIDS advocacy work of groups like ACT UP during the epidemic’s worst days.

There seems to a bumper crop of strong female filmmakers either returning to Sundance or making their indie film debuts, and many of them have crafted stories that may be of particular interest to LGBT audiences.  Marialy Rivas’ Young and Wild and Aurora Guerrero’s Mosquita Y Mari both focus on teenage girls trying to navigate their evolving sexual orientation without a map, in Santiago, Chile, and Los Angeles respectively.  Humpday director Lynn Shelton is returning with Your Sister’s Sister, in which a lesbian’s regrettable one night stand with her sister’s male best friend leads to more complications than either expected.  And Erin Greenwell’s charming film My Best Day tells the story of one American day in a small town that includes a lesbian repairwoman considering the future of her relationship.

Other gay characters are expected to pop up in the much buzzed about films Celeste and Jesse Forever and For a Good Time Call, but are at the focal point of the highly anticipated Keep the Lights On.  Director Ira Sachs’ newest film examines the evolving relationship of a gay couple over the course of many years and more than a few hardships.

Scroll down to see our full guide to the LGBT-inclusive films at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and look for more information on GLAAD’s own panel and event series on our CineGLAAD page soon.

About Face

Program Category: Documentary Premieres

Director: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Synopsis: Photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders takes an uncensored look at the women who have defined our sense of beauty during the past 50 years. Some share their experiences, talking about the longevity of their careers and their viewpoints on the fashion industry, while also addressing how issues like the AIDS epidemic have shaped the industry.

About the Pink Sky

Program Category: World Dramatic

Director/Screenwriter: Keiichi Kobayashi

Synopsis: Izumi, a high school girl, finds a wallet containing 300,000 yen (about $4,000) that belongs to Sato, a wealthy high school boy. She decides to keep it and lends money to a fisherman friend facing financial difficulties.  Pressured by her classmates to return the wallet, Izumi agrees to help Sato console a friend in the hospital by creating a newspaper made up of positive news to make up for the missing money.

Celeste and Jesse Forever

Program Category: Premieres

Director: Lee Toland Krieger

Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack

Synopsis: A seemingly ideal couple (Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg) must figure out the complicated business of separation in this comedic divorce story that co-stars Elijah Wood as a gay man.

Dol (First Birthday)

Program Category: Shorts Competition

Director/Screenwriter: Andrew Ahn

Synopsis: Nick, a gay Korean-American man living in Los Angeles with his partner and their dog, realizes he wants a family of his own when he attends a traditional Korean first birthday party.

For a Good Time, Call…

Program Category: Premieres

Director: Jamie Travis

Screenwriter: Katie Anne Naylon, Lauren Anne Miller

Synopsis: Two college peers with a formerly tumultuous relationship find themselves as unlikely New York roommates and even more unlikely business partners in a phone sex venture, in this film co-starring Justin Long.


Program Category: Shorts Competition

Director: Kyle Henry

Screenwriter: Carlos Trevino

Synopsis: A man finds his own private heaven in a Florida mall bathroom, but satisfaction is not always easy to come across.

How To Survive a Plague

Program Category: U.S. Documentary

Director: David France

Screenwriter: David France, T. Woody Richman, Tyler Walk

Synopsis: The LGBT movement of the late 20th century was in many ways galvanized and shaped by its response to the AIDS epidemic, which is at the center of this documentary examining how groups like ACT UP and TAG spurred a lagging medical establishment and unsympathetic political system into action.


Program Category: NEXT

Director/Screenwriter: Destin Daniel Cretton

Synopsis: Following the death of his mother, an aspiring musician’s malcontent nature is challenged by the arrival of his sisters and father, in this film set in the oftentimes not-quite-straight indie art and music scene.

Keep the Lights On

Program Category: U.S. Dramatic

Director: Ira Sachs

Screenwriter: Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias

Synopsis: One of the most anticipated entries at Sundance, this film witnesses the evolving and sometimes fractured relationship between two men over the course of a decade in New York City as they navigate issues like addiction, fidelity, and companionship.

Love Free or Die

Program Category: U.S. Documentary

Director: Macky Alston

Synopsis: When openly gay Gene Robinson was elected bishop of New Hampshire by the Episcopal Church, it caused a cacophony of religious and cultural debate, the reverberations of which are still being felt today as explored in this new documentary from director Macky Alston.


Program Category: U.S. Documentary

Director: Chris Moukarbel, Valerie Veatch

Synopsis: Chris Crocker told the world to “Leave Britney Alone!” and millions heard him.  Raised in a generation that documents every move online, Chris, from a small town in Tennessee took to YouTube to share his life and views with the world.  Through comments and response videos, ME @THE ZOO_ tells the life of an internet star and explores the ways social media shapes our lives.

Mosquita y Mari

Program Category: NEXT

Director/Screenwriter: Aurora Guerrero

Synopsis: The burgeoning friendship between two Latina high school students in Los Angeles takes on dimensions neither of them expected in this unique drama from writer/director Aurora Guerrero.

My Best Day

Program Category: NEXT

Director/Screenwriter: Erin Greenwell

Synopsis: A woman’s discovery that her biological father might live one town away leads to a scheme to secretly meet him, in which she enlists the help of her lesbian coworker who’s dealing with her own set of relationship issues in this warm and very charming film from writer/director Erin Greenwell.

My Brother the Devil

Program Category: World Dramatic

Director/Screenwriter: Sally El Hosaini

Synopsis: Mo is a 14-year-old prone to getting himself in dangerous situations, with an older brother who provides a comfortable life for his family as a successful drug dealer and gang member.  When Mo sets out to prove he can be as tough as Rashid, an unexpected turn of events will force the brothers to face their demons and recognize the courage needed for love and understanding.

The Invisible War

Program Category: U.S. Documentary

Director/Screenwriter: Kirby Dick

Synopsis: Director Kirby Dick’s (Outrage) new documentary addresses the rarely publicized issue of sexual assault within the military, which many servicemen and women endure with sometimes little legal recourse.

The Return (Kthimi)

Program Category: Shorts Competition

Director: Blerta Zeqiri

Screenwriter: Shefqet Gjocaj

Synopsis: A man returns to his family who thought he had died at war.  The family has grown and continuing where they left off four years prior proves to be difficult.

The Thing

Program Category: Shorts Competition

Director: Rhys Ernst

Screenwriter: Rhys Ernst, Avery McTaggart

Synopsis: A transgender man, a woman and their cat go on a road trip to see a strange roadside attraction named ‘The Thing.’  Their destination ends up being somewhere completely different than they expected.

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Program Category: Shorts Competition

Director: Lucy Walker

Synopsis: Survivors of Japan’s recent and devastating tsunami find the courage to go on and rebuild their lives as the country’s beloved cherry flower blossoms.

That’s What She Said

Program Category: NEXT

Director: Carrie Preston

Screenwriter: Kellie Overbey

Synopsis: True Blood’s Carrie Preston directed this new comedy about the divergent love lives of two female best friends and a new friend they pick up during a particularly unpredictable urban adventure.

Young & Wild

Program Category: World Dramatic

Director: Marialy Rivas

Screenwriter: Marialy Rivas, Camila Gutiérrez, Pedro Peirano, Sebastián Sepúlveda

Synopsis: In this coming-of-age story, Daniela, a 17-year-old from Santiago, Chile, finds difficulty reconciling her strong sexual impulses with her religious upbringing.  So she takes to her blog to recount her sexual awakening, while continuing to attend church and praying that her mother won’t discover the truth.

Your Sister’s Sister

Program Category: Spotlight

Director/Screenwriter: Lynn Shelton

Synopsis: Director Lynn Shelton made a splash at Sundance a few years ago with Humpday, which followed two straight male best friends who decide to make a dirty movie.  Now she returns with a new film about a woman (Emily Blunt) whose life is turned upside down when her male best friend has a one night stand with her openly gay sister (Rosemarie DeWitt).



Slamdance Film Festival

Just up Main Street from Sundance, the Slamdance film fest takes place at the Treasure Mountain Inn, featuring a number of other independent films worth checking out.  You can learn about their LGBT-inclusive offereings below, and find out more by visiting their website here.

33 Teeth

Program Category: Narrative Short

Director: Evan Roberts

Synopsis: Eddie is a 14-year-old boy who lives with his mother.  The hormonal teen has a strong fascination for his older and attractive neighbor, Chad.

The Devotion Project: More Than Ever

Program Category: Documentary Short

Director: Antony Osso

Synopsis: William Campbell and John Hilton met in the New York City bathhouses in 1957.  The two have formed a strong bond over the years, but as they face an illness, the struggle brings a new appreciation for one another.

Dicke Maedchen (Heavy Girls)

Program Category: Featured, Narrative Feature

Director: Axel Ranisch

Synopsis: Sven cares for his mother; they share an apartment and even a bed.  While he’s at work, Daniel takes over and cares for Edeltraut.  One day, the woman locks Daniel on the balcony and leaves the apartment.  As the two men look for her, the find more than just Edeltraut, and Daniel and Sven develop a strong connection that will change their lives.


Program Category: Documentary Features

Director: James Stenson

Synopsis: Kelly Van Ryan left her rural town to escape intolerance at age 16 and searched for fame, fortune and acceptance in Hollywood.  Without a proper support network, the transgender teen turned to sex work and drugs to survive.  As she faces legal charges, she returns to her hometown and confronts the community and family she left behind.


Program Category: Narrative Short

Director: Liz Cambron

Synopsis: An unnamed girl living in a trailer park goes through the motions of life without any direction.  When she falls for an older woman, she finds the stability for which she longed, but her will to get out of the trailer park continues to grow.

Soy tan Feliz

Program Category: Narrative Short

Director: Vladimir Durán

Synopsis: Two brothers with a  very close relationship find themselves stranded on a wintry day following a car accident.