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Sundance Highlights Gay Films

Plus Alan Hollinghurst, Lil Nas X, Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth in "Supernova," an all-LGBTQ mariachi band, politics, news, and more...

The Sundance Film Festival took place this past weekend, and for the first time it happened mostly online rather than at its Utah home. In a preview, George Elkind wrote last week that “Sundance was always on the cutting edge of queer filmmaking; in 2021, it still is.” The Advocate cataloged 14 LGBTQ titles in this year’s lineup, out of a total of some 130 premiers. We look forward to the broader release of these gay highlights:

  • Ailey explores the life and art of legendary choreographer Alvin Ailey, who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958 and died of AIDS in 1989. Directed by Jamila Wignot.
  • Flee tells the true story of a gay Afghan refugee living in Denmark, his identity concealed at his request by means of animation. Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen.
  • The Most Beautiful Boy in the World reflects on the life of Björn Andrésen, the actor who at 15 “starred as Tadzio opposite Dirk Bogarde in Luchino Visconti’s adaptation of Death in Venice... Being immortalized as an iconic boy meant that Andrésen spent most of his adult life trying to be invisible, refusing to have his identity shaped by a shallow fantasy about who he was.” Directed by Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri.
  • Together Together recounts the deep, platonic friendship that develops between a single gay man and the gestational surrogate he engages to have his child. Directed by Nikole Beckwith.
  • The short film Flex offers a “slightly surreal comedic exploration of the fine line between a bodybuilder’s self-loathing and self-loving,” complete with green Speedo and blue lightning. Not gay, but still perhaps interesting.

Books, Arts, and Culture

Acclaimed gay author Alan Hollinghurst will give a virtual presentation this Sunday at the Coast is Queer literary festival. Hollinghurst is best known for his 1988 novel The Swimming-Pool Library; The Line of Beauty, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2004; and, most recently, The Sparsholt Affair (2017). Homebound for the duration of the pandemic, Hollinghurst is hard at work on his next novel. “I’ve always been a very slow writer and take ages to put a book together, so it sort of feels oddly like normal to me on the writing front,” he recently told Will Stroude in Attitude.

Impulse Group NYC will release a new art book entitled Our Light Through Darkness, made in collaboration with gay photographer LaQuann Dawson, as a “visual manifesto for queer liberation, acceptance, and infinite visibility” in a “year of much uncertainty and dismay.” The book is available for a $35 donation to Impulse’s nonprofit partners. Enjoy more of Dawson’s dramatic and oh-so-sexy photographs on his web site. Impulse Group is a “nonprofit organization dedicated to building a stronger and healthier community for gay men,” with gatherings in 25 cities worldwide.

Grammy-winning rapper Lil Nas X has written an alphabet book for children entitled C is for Country, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III. In this story of the artist and his pony, Panini, A may be “for adventure,” but “F is for fringe, feathers, and fake fur.” Now you’re talking! And Darryl Bullock, author of David Bowie Made Me Gay, has released a new book entitled The Velvet Mafia: The Gay Men Who Ran the Swinging Sixties. The new work, reviewed in The Pitch, explores the British music scene of the 1960s; the stories of Larry Parnes, Beatles manager Brian Epstein, and Joe Meek; and “the changes in social mores which led to LGBT Britons being able to live their lives more openly and freely.”

In the annals of gay history, the pink triangle used by the Nazis to shame homosexuals is surely one of the most enduring symbols of the persecution of LGBTQ people. Writing in PinkNews on Holocaust Memorial Day (January 27), Ella Braidwood tells how this symbol of shame “became a defiant symbol of gay rights.” For those in England, Diarmuid Hester offers an audio tour “on the trail of Cambridge’s rich and radical queer past,” including the Anchor Pub, the colleges of E.M. Forster, Edward Carpenter, and other highlights. And this Thursday, February 4, the University of Southern California hosts a virtual panel discussion on “Black Gay Mail,” exploring “how gay Black men found connection and erotic expression through magazines” in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the Washington Blade, Patrick Folliard reviews Ryan Haddad’s new play, Hi, Are You Single? “If you can’t get on board with me being disabled and horny AF,” says Haddad, who has cerebral palsy, “then you’ll have a hard time with this play.” On Twitter, The Walking Dead shuts down homophobes who objected to a gay story line.

And Supernova had its U.S. premier last weekend. The much-anticipated film stars Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth as a gay couple driving north in England after Tucci’s character is diagnosed with early-onset dementia. Peter Bradshaw reviewed the film in September after its U.K. premier. On a lighter note, meet Mariachi Arcoíris, an all-LGBTQ mariachi band based in California!

Gay News

In U.S. politics, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation voted 21-to-3 to advance Pete Buttigieg’s nomination as Secretary of Transportation; the full Senate is expected to confirm his nomination this week. Rep. David Cicillene of Rhode Island and Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon plan to reintroduce the Equality Act later this month. The act would codify and expand federal protection against discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the Washington Blade that she is optimistic about the bill’s chance for passage now that the Senate is controlled by Democrats.

John Weaver, co-founder of the Republican anti-Trump Lincoln Project, has been accused of making unwanted “sexual overtures to young men, sometimes offering to help them get work in politics,” according to The New York Times. In a statement, Weaver, who is married to a woman and has two children, admitted that the messages were inappropriate, apologized, and came out as gay.

Meanwhile, homophobic preacher Scott Lively has claimed that “God let Trump lose because he’s too pro-gay,” according to Metro Weekly. Too pro-gay? “Trump’s record on LGBTQ rights [was] vile from the moment he took office”—and LGBTQ Nation kept a helpful, sobering list. Instead, perhaps “God let Trump lose” because Trump simply doesn’t believe in Christ: “You cannot serve two masters,” said Jesus. “Support me or you’ll be so god@#n poor,” said Trump.

As Congress (hopefully) gets to work on the Equality Act, the Human Rights Campaign has issued a statement calling on states to implement the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. While President Biden’s day-one order implementing Bostock federally “is a significant step forward,” said HRC president Alphonso David, “LGBTQ people must also have access to protections under state laws.”

While San Francisco recently repealed its AIDS-era ban on gay bathhouses, whether states will heed the HRC’s plea seems deeply uncertain. Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman of Pennsylvania is skirmishing with the state’s Republican-controlled legislature over his right to fly a rainbow flag from his office window. In The New York Times, Jennifer Finney Boylan warns, “As if in response to the prospect of things getting better for queer Americans at the federal level, Republicans in statehouses from Montana to New Hampshire have introduced a slew of anti-LGBTQ bills.” Track pro- and anti-LGBTQ bills nationwide at the Freedom for All Americans legislative tracker.

Abroad, two men were “caned 77 times in Indonesia after ‘being caught having sex,’” according to The Guardian. “It was the third time that authorities have caned people for alleged gay sex acts in Aceh province.” Human Rights Watch called the punishment torture and condemned it as a “brutal, absolutely medieval punishment for an act that should never have been criminalised in the first place.” In Turkey, four “LGBT deviants” have been arrested for displaying a work of art depicting the Kaaba, the holiest of Islamic shrines, together with a rainbow flag, according to Ahram Online. And Nigerian actor Uche Maduagwu—son of a homophobic Nigerian politican—has come out as gay and urged the United States “to place sanctions on the Nigerian government over [a] 2014 anti-gay law,” according to Sahara Reporters.

Notable deaths this week: Joseph Sonnabend, a doctor who treated gay patients at the center of New York’s AIDS epidemic during the 1980s; and Cloris Leachman, famed for her performances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Last Picture Show.

Art Note

Travis Wise, “Sundance Film Festival sign”/CC BY 2.0

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