The 2014 Sundance Film Festival kicks off today in — funny enough — Utah with a generous itinerary of LGBT flicks. And while most of us won’t have a chance to make it there, it’s worth keeping an eye on, because these films are the ones we’ll be talking about all year. We’ll probably even see a few of them at this year’s QFest. So to keep your on your gay movie game, I’ve rounded up some of the most-buzzed gay movies playing at the festival — from the documentary about trans musician Rae Spoon, My Prairie Home, to The Skeleton Twins, a comedy starring SNL alums Kristin Wiig (!) and Bill Hader. Check them out — with trailers (when available) and Sundance previews — below.
52 Tuesdays (109 min., Australia): Sixteen-year-old Billie is blindsided by the news that her mother is planning to transition from female to male and that, during this time, Billie will live at her father’s house. Billie and her mother have always been extremely close, so the two make an agreement they will meet every Tuesday during their year apart. As her mother transitions and becomes less emotionally available, Billie covertly explores her own identity and sexuality with two older schoolmates, testing the limits of her own power, desire, and independence. Starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, Imogen Archer, Mario Späte, Beau Williams and Sam Althuizen.
Appropriate Behavior (90 min., U.K.): For Shirin, being part of a perfect Persian family isn’t easy. Acceptance eludes her from all sides: her family doesn’t know she’s bisexual, and her ex-girlfriend, Maxine, can’t understand why she doesn’t tell them. Even the six-year-old boys in her moviemaking class are too ADD to focus on her for more than a second. Following a family announcement of her brother’s betrothal to a parentally approved Iranian prize catch, Shirin embarks on a private rebellion involving a series of pansexual escapades, while trying to decipher what went wrong with Maxine. Starring Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Halley Feiffer, Scott Adsit, Anh Duong and Arian Moayed.
The Case Against 8 (109 min., U.S.): Election Day 2008: Californians passed Proposition 8, a measure that repealed the right of same-sex couples to marry. This documentary takes us behind the scenes of the high-profile trial that overturned the controversial constitutional amendment. The case first made headlines with the shocking alliance of lead attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, political foes who last faced off on opposing sides in Bush v. Gore. The plaintiffs are two loving gay couples who find their families at the center of the same-sex marriage controversy.
Dear White People (108 min., U.S.): At prestigious Winchester University, bi-racial student Samantha White begins her radio show with, “Dear White People, the amount of black friends required not to seem racist has just been raised to two. Sorry, your weed man, Tyrone, doesn’t count.” Starring Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris and Brandon Bell.
Drunktown’s Finest (85 min., U.S.): Drunktown’s Finest is Sydney Freeland’s feature film debut and her response to a news story that characterized her hometown of Gallup, New Mexico, as “Drunktown, USA.” Nizhoni was adopted and raised as a Christian by a white family, transsexual Felixxia dreams of becoming a model, and Sickboy is headed to basic training so he can take care of his soon-to-be-born child. We observe the Navajo Nation from the inside out through the eyes of these three unlikely characters. At first our preconceptions are reinforced, but slowly, as each of their lives unfolds, we confront the reality of living in this community, and we see these three aspiring to leave their town behind. Starring Jeremiah Bitsui, Carmen Moore, Morningstar Angeline, Kiowa Gordon, Shauna Baker and Elizabeth Frances.
The Foxy Merkins (90 min., U.S.): Margaret is a down-on-her-luck, lesbian hooker in training. She meets Jo, a beautiful, self-assured grifter from a wealthy family and an expert on picking up women, even though she considers herself a card-carrying heterosexual. The duo hit the streets, where they encounter bargain-hunting housewives, double-dealing conservative women, husky-voiced seductresses, mumbling erotic accessory salesmen, and shopaholic swingers. Navigating the bizarre fetishes and sexual needs of their “dates” brings into focus the hilarious differences between the two hookers, fellow travelers who share the road, but only for a while. Starring Lisa Haas, Jackie Monahan, Alex Karpovsky, Susan Ziegler, Sally Sockwell and Deb Margolin.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (105 min., U.S.): As a teenager, Aaron Swartz was a computer-programming prodigy with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. After emerging as a pioneer of Internet activism, education, and politics, he was indicted on multiple federal charges in 2011 and 2012, setting off a complex chain of events that left the Internet community reeling. Shortly thereafter, at the age of 26, Swartz was found dead of an apparent suicide in his Brooklyn apartment. His family, friends, and supporters immediately blamed the prosecutors of the case, who aimed to put him in jail for 35 years and brand him a convicted felon for life. Swartz was persecuted for the very rights and freedoms for which he stood, and that ultimately broke him.
Jamie Marks is Dead (100 min., U.S.): In a wintry small town, the body of a teenager named Jamie Marks is found by the river. Adam, the star of his cross-country team, becomes fascinated with Jamie—a boy nobody really knew or interacted with, except occasionally to bully him. When Jamie’s ghost begins to appear both to Adam and Gracie, the classmate who discovered the body, Adam is caught between two worlds. He has a budding romance with Gracie, but he also feels a deep connection to Jamie, who brings him closer to the world of the undead. Starring Cameron Monaghan, Noah Silver, Morgan Saylor, Madisen Beaty with Judy Greer and Liv Tyler.
Lilting (91 min., U.K.): The sudden death of a young London man named Kai leaves his headstrong Chinese-Cambodian mother, Junn, and his boyfriend, Richard, each in a personal and profound state of grief. Feeling a strong sense of responsibility toward Kai’s only family member, Richard reaches out to Junn, who has been biding time in an assisted-living home. Though Junn speaks little English, her dislike of Richard is plain, and she meets him with stony resistance. Since they share no common language, Richard hires a translator to facilitate communication, and the two improbable relatives attempt to reach across a chasm of misunderstanding through their memories of Kai. Starring Ben Whishaw, Pei-Pei Cheng, Andrew Leung, Peter Bowles, Naomi Christie and Morven Christie.
Love is Strange (U.S., France): After 39 years together, Ben and George finally tie the knot in an idyllic wedding ceremony in lower Manhattan. But when news of their marriage reaches the Catholic school where George works, he is fired from his longtime job, and the couple can no longer afford their New York City apartment. As a temporary solution, George moves in with the two gay cops next door, while Ben moves to Brooklyn to live with his nephew, Eliot; Eliot’s wife, Kate; and their teenage son. As Ben and George struggle to secure a new apartment, the pain of living apart and their presence in two foreign households test the resilience and relationships of all involved. Starring John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Darren Burrows, Charlie Tahan and Cheyenne Jackson.
My Prairie Home (76 min., Canada): With only an acoustic guitar and a laptop, transgender singer/songwriter Rae Spoon, who prefers the gender-neutral pronoun “they,” embarks on a modest tour across the vast and blue-skied plains of Canada, facilitated by Greyhound buses and generic motel rooms. Delicately observed through Spoon’s contemplative moments, My Prairie Home takes an impressionistic approach to its subject, thwarting the expectations of a traditional music documentary. The film poetically weaves together Spoon’s personal history of an evangelical household back in Alberta, a troubled family life, and a forbidden first love—all of which left indelible marks on their lyrics and are brought to life through playful, music-video–like visual sequences.
The Skeleton Twins (90 min., U.S.): Living separate lives on opposite sides of the country, estranged siblings Maggie and Milo are at the end of their ropes. But after a moment of crisis reunites them, Milo goes to spend time with Maggie in the small New York town where they grew up. A dental hygienist, Maggie struggles with her unhappy marriage to the painfully good-natured Lance, while Milo tracks down Rich, the English teacher with whom he shares a checkered past. Adrift and wondering how they ended up so far from who they were supposed to be, the siblings try to patch things up. Starring Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook and Joanna Gleason.
Stranger By the Lake (100 min., France): This film has stunned festival audiences around the world with its candid and absorbing portrait of passion and murder at a secluded lakeside cruising spot. Starring Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou and Patrick d’Assumçao.
To Be Takei (U.S.): George Takei doesn’t shy away from digging into his remarkable career and personal life in Jennifer Kroot’s delightful and incisive film To Be Takei. As a child forced into Japanese-American internment camps, the actor-turned-activist reveals the ways that racism affected him well into his early acting career, where he played stereotypical Asian stock characters in film and television shows. Even after landing the iconic role of Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek, Takei’s sharp eye, coupled with his wicked sense of humor, continued to challenge the status quo well into the twenty-first century.