Over the weekend, the 2023 Sundance Film Festival came to a close, wrapping up 11 days of independent movies among the gorgeous, snow-covered mountains of Park City, Utah.
Queerty was delighted to be a part of this year’s festivities—the first time Sundance has been in-person since 2020—especially because the eclectic lineup featured a historic roster of LGBTQ+ films, running the gamut from uproarious comedies to searing dramas to astonishing documentaries.
Below, we run down our 10 favorite queer features from Sundance (plus a bonus short we can’t get enough of), which are sure to be some of the most talked about movies in the year ahead.
*Unless otherwise noted, the film’s below are still awaiting distribution, so stay tuned more more details on when this titles will hit theaters—or streaming platforms—near you.
It’s easy for biopics to feel like rote recitations of a subject’s Wikipedia page, but filmmaker Roger Ross Williams brings a real flair (fittingly) to the life story of flamboyant wrestler Saúl Armendáriz, a.k.a. Cassandro, the “Liberace Of Lucha Libre.” In the titular role, film-nerd crush Gael García Bernal is equal parts tender and bombastic—complemented by some impressive stunt work in the ring—leading a killer supporting cast that features A League of Their Own‘s Roberta Colindrez, Looking‘s Raúl Castillo, and Bad Bunny, who shows off his acting chops (and steals hearts) in just a few scenes.
Cassandro was produced by Amazon Studios, and is set to stream on Prime Video some time this year.
Related: This sneak peek at Bad Bunny and Gael García Bernal’s movie make-out has fans gagged
Are you a fan of Carol, but found yourself wishing that the lesbian romance was a bit more… twisted? Then Eileen is the movie for you! Directed by William Oldroyd (Lady Macbeth), the film tells the tale of a young woman, Eileen (rising star Thomasin McKenzie), who cares for her alcoholic father and works at a New England prison where she struggles to keep her libido in check. Enter: Anne Hathaway—giving one of her best-ever performances—as a Manic Pixie Dream Woman whose peculiar friendship with Eileen sends them both careening into a nightmare. But it’s a total gag, we promise!
Lily Gladstone (Scorsese’s upcoming Killers Of The Flower Moon) receives a fantastic showcase in this crime drama playing a queer Native American woman who attempts to care for her niece (Isabel Deroy-Olson) after her sister goes missing. With that central mystery as its hook—inspired by the very real epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous woman—the film reveals itself to be a nuanced portrait of a community, particularly the Seneca-Cayuga Nation in Oklahoma. Fancy Dance marks a confident feature debut for Erica Tremblay (Reservations Dogs) that culminates in a knockout final scene.
A documentary about Black trans sex workers as told by Black trans sex workers, Kokomo City brings us into the worlds of the endlessly watchable Daniella Carter, Dominique Silver, Koko Da Doll, and Liyah Mitchell, sharing stories that are funny, shocking, heartbreaking, and eye-opening—sometimes all at once. While the women’s lives and experiences may differ, D. Smith’s revelatory first film finds the tenacious spirit that connects them all as they fight for survival, respect, and happiness. Though shot in stark black-and-white, there’s a vibrancy to Kokomo City that makes it hard to forget.
Kokomo City has been picked up by Magnolia Pictures.
Little Richard: I Am Everything
Few musicians are as worthy of a retrospective documentary as “Little” Richard Wayne Penniman, the culture-shaping star whose life was filled with career milestones, controversies, and contradictions. Lisa Cortes’ film is unafraid to explore her subject’s conflicted soul, while also showing us how this Black, queer man paved the way for… well, basically everybody! Lovingly infused with his barn-burning hits, I Am Everything assembles an impressive array of “talking heads” (including LGBTQ+ luminaries like John Waters and Billy Porter) who prove that Little Richard’s legacy is anything but little.
Little Richard: I Am Everything has been picked up by Magnolia/CNN Films.
Over one eventful day, we watch a trans man named Feña (Lio Mehiel) traverse the exhausting yet inviting streets of New York City in this gorgeous, personal drama from filmmaker Vuk Lungulov-Klotz. Feña is just trying to find his little corner of the world, but that becomes increasingly difficult when people from the past keep stumbling back into his life, including semi-estranged family members and the ex (Cole Doman) he pushed away. Everyone gives their all to this winning indie, but it’s Mehiel and Doman’s chemistry that claims its MVP status, delivering the hottest scene to ever take place in a laundromat.
On its surface, Passages is an ode to the chaotic bisexual as the affection-craving Tomas (Franz Rogowski) flits between his long-term partner Martin (Ben Whishaw) and Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a woman he meets out one night at the club, with seemingly little concern for either’s needs. But the latest from acclaimed indie director Ira Sachs (Keep The Lights On, Love Is Strange) isn’t so simple as it dabbles in themes of intimacy, companionship, and artistic ego. With a trio of committed and vulnerable performances at its core, this just might be Sachs’ sexiest film yet.
Passages has been picked up by Mubi and is due to hit theaters this year.
Related: Ben Whishaw shows his sexy side (and backside) in this intimate and honest Sundance favorite
Rotting In The Sun
Alt-comedy provocateur Jordan Firstman stars as himself in this meta dark satire about a depressed director (Sebastian Silva, also playing himself—and directing) whose Mexican vacation gives way to a missing-persons mystery. If a little overlong, Rotting In The Sun still packs plenty of punch, with a raucous first half that gives way to something more thoughtful and introspective, and Firstman proving he’s got some acting chops beyond those Instagram impressions he’s become known for. Oh, and did we mention there’s plenty of nudity and un-simulated sex scenes? It’s a trip, literally.
Related: Jordan Firstman’s explicit new comedy shocks Sundance crowds with its un-simulated gay sex acts
Though the Lithuanian drama Slow is technically centered on a heteronormative romance between Elena (Greta Grineviciute), a dance instructor, and Dovydas (Kestutis Cicenas), a sign language interpreter, it nevertheless offers an insightful exploration of one of the most under-represented corners of the LGBTQ+ community: Asexuality. As the pair organically grows from colleagues to friends to something more, Dovydas’s asexuality pushes both of them to negotiate what love means beyond sexual intimacy. Yes, Marija Kavtaradze’s feature takes its time, but its a fresh and affirming love story worth the wait.
Fiancés Ben Platt and Noah Galvin are among the co-writers and stars of this crowd-pleasing ensemble comedy that’s sure to become a favorite for anyone who’s ever self-identified as a “theater gay.” Cleverly formatted as a mockumentary, Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman’s film follows the counselors of a fledgling theater camp as they try to keep things running after the owner (Amy Sedaris) falls into coma. The cast is filled with enough comedy ringers (Jimmy Tatro, Patti Harrison, Ayo Edibiri) to deliver non-stop laughs, but it’s the young campers who steal the show, bringing heart to the proceedings and hitting every right note.
Theater Camp has been picked up by Searchlight, and is slated to hits theaters and Hulu later this year.
Related: Ben Platt talks new tour, the need for queer artists, plus an update on “The Politician” season 3
While we regretfully didn’t catch as much of Sundance’s incredible short film program as we would’ve liked, we have to shout out Mike Donahue’s Troy, which we’ve been obsessed with since catching it at Outfest last summer. The short concerns itself with a New York couple (Michael Braun, Adina Verson) who hear all of their sex worker neighbor’s (Hans Berlin) business thanks to the apartment’s paper-thin walls. With that simple premise, Troy goes to some unexpected places, delivering a dark but ultimately sweet comedy that will stay with you far longer than the abbreviated run time.
Oh nooooo one of the stories mentions Ben Platt! Standby for the offended crew to be offended and shook and all that
Was 2023 really the last time Sundance was in-person?
Wow, time flies… Seems like yesterday.
You forgot these Queer Film Awards Winners:
The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was awarded to The Persian Version.
You forgot this Queer content Award Winner; The Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to Daniela I. Quiroz for Going Varsity in Mariachi
Jury citation: A joyful edit that carries the heart of the characters while still exploring difficult and sensitive issues in a delicate and beautiful way. We deeply care for our heroes and the spirit of life on the border. The Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award: U.S. Documentary goes to Editor, Daniela I. Quiroz, Going Varsity in Mariachi.