Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right
Casey De La Rosa
Most people who identify as LGBTQ+ can vividly recall the first time they identified with a character on screen. It lets us know that we’re not alone, and in a way, it validates us or even changes how we think about ourselves.
And long before every Hollywood romantic comedy had a snarky gay best friend (I happen to love Rupert Everett’s character in My Best Friend’s Wedding, by the way), independent films were home to some of the first fully dimensional LGBTQ+ characters and stories. That legacy continues today, with films like Weekend, Pariah and Keep the Lights On continuing to break boundaries and tell stories in new ways.
We’ve listed below a few of our favorite tales of same-sex love and transgender characters. Even better, all were supported by Sundance Institute or our Sundance Film Festival. We’re very proud to have played a part in helping these stories. Take a look and let us know what films you’ll be watching to celebrate Pride Month.
Premiering at the 1985 Sundance Film Festival, where it won a slew of awards, The Times of Harvey Milk was one of the first LGBTQ+ documentaries we screened. In another first, it profiles the first openly gay elected official in the United States, Harvey Milk. Through the film, we come to know and love him and his many accomplishments, making the horror that much greater as we relive his assassination and the public outcry. It’s a significant film and one we love so much that we screened a restored version at our 2001 Festival, where the impact was no less profound.
In a word, heartbreaking. Longtime Companion looks at the impact of AIDS on the gay community in the 1980s, particularly on a group of men in New York City. Over the years, each is impacted by the disease in one way or another. The core of the story is a couple adjusting to life when one is diagnosed with the illness, eventually transmitting it to the other. I can’t imagine there was a dry eye in the house when it premiered at our Festival in 1990.
Strike a pose and enter the world of Harlem drag queen balls, where black and Latino men compete for trophies and cash prizes by “voguing,” a combination of break dancing, posing, gymnastics and assuming attitudes. The balls are a complete break from the reality of the performers’ daily lives, and as we watch from the outside, we’re completely engrossed. Paris is Burning earned the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at our 1991 Festival (and eventually, a cult following). Also, good news—the film has been added to The Sundance Collection at UCLA, and we’re undertaking critical preservation work so new audiences can experience this film as it was meant to be seen. Click here to learn more.
There’s nothing quite like Hedwig and the Angry Inch—something you realize just by reading a short synopsis: “a rock musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer.” Hedwig is one of the most fabulous characters I’ve seen on screen, and her persistence and flair for creative self-expression are nothing short of inspiring. The film came through our Screenwriters and Directors labs before it premiered at the Festival in 2001.
Lest we forget that there are gay communities outside of major metropolitan hubs, this documentary reminds us that we’re in every corner of America, even rural Mississippi. What happens in two gay bars there is much more than drinking and dancing. small town gay bar, which premiered at our 2006 Festival, shows us that at the end of the day, wherever we are and whatever our orientation, we’re all searching for love, acceptance and friendship.
A loving couple (who happen to be gay) and their beautiful children growing into themselves and their family, The Kids Are All Right quietly makes a case for families of all types. The film premiered at our 2010 Festival, marking Cholodenko’s third film at our Festival, and went on to receive multiple Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.
Want to see more LGBT-themed films? Check out Outfest 2012: The 30th Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (July 12-22) and NewFest 2012: The New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Film Festival (July 27-31). And be sure to support GLAAD and other LGBT organizations all year long.