Sundance gay movie news roundup
Sundance hit, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
The clear winner among the crop of gay movies screened at the just wrapped Sundance Film Festival is lesbian coming-out story Pariah, which was picked up for worldwide distribution by Focus Features.
Dee Rees’ film, which is based on a short film she made in 2008, joins a pedigree stable of gay movies – Focus was the distributor for Milk and Brokeback Mountain and acquired Oscar-nominated The Kids Are All Right at last year’s event.
The film heads back from Park City with a string of rave reviews and while it’s a more modest movie than ‘Kids’, to be getting the same start is very encouraging indeed. Particular praise has been given to young actress Adepero Oduye who plays an gay African-American teen coming to terms with her sexuality and torn between two very different scenes.
It wouldn’t be Sundance without some kind of protest and counter-protest. This year it was the turn of wacko hate-mongers, Westboro Baptist Church, who had beef with Kevin Smith’s latest movie, Red State .
Coincidentally, the gay-friendly director’s satirical horror movie was partly inspired by an interview with Westboro’s leader, Fred Phelps. It starts with a group of extreme fundamentalists picketing a gay student’s funeral (a speciality of Westboro Baptist Church) and briefly turns into teen sex comedy before returning to horror as three teenage boys are kidnapped by the church’s sinister preacher, a man who believes the end is night and gays are agents of the devil.
Smith’s film, which also takes swipes at the police and U.S. government, has divided critics (I’m sure Smith wouldn’t want it any other way!). After the rumoured bidding war for Red State never happened, director Smith bought the movie for himself and now plans to take it on the road.
Sticking with religious extremists, but without the comedy or any decent reviews, is Matthew Chapman’s The Ledge. Hoping to do for window ledges what Phone Booth did for phone booths, this faith-themed thriller sees Charlie Hunnam (Queer As Folk) as a staunch atheist with a gay roommate who hits on the wife of an unhinged Christian fundamentalist – big mistake!
Despite the scathing notices, The Ledge was picked up by distributor IFC Film’s for a cool $1 million. It also stars Liv Tyler and Patrick Wilson.
Much better received was David Weissman’s gay themed documentary We Were Here. It differs from other films about the early AIDS crisis by focusing on five survivors from San Francisco and their inspirational stories of a community pulling together.
Another gay themed movie celebrating after getting picked up is Gun Hill Road. Its story of a tough former convict in a Latino community at odds with his son’s emerging sexual identity might seem familiar to anyone who watched last year’s La Mission starring Benjamin Bratt, but Gun Hill Road impressed its packed-out Sundance audience enough to receive a standing ovation.
Just as Pariah has brought praise for its young star, Gun Hill Road is notable for the performance given by first-timer Harmony Santana as the son undergoing a gender transformation and now living as ‘Vanessa’ and performing tricks to get by.
Casting Santana in the role was the culmination of a long search across New York by writer/director Rashaad Ernesto Green and what a find it turned out to be!