At this year’s Sundance film festival, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a heartfelt adaptation of a 2012 novel about a lesbian teen surviving "conversion therapy," won the 2018 Grand Jury Prize, the festival's most prestigious award. This career-making victory — past winners included Fruitvale Station and Whiplash — is likely most treasured by the writer-director, Desiree Akhavan. Akhavan begun working on the film after her girlfriend urged her to tell the potent story.
There’s something magical about the win, of not only a female-identifying director but a lesbian one at that. But in Park City, 2018 was all about the queer ladies.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post stars Sasha Lane, who off her American Honey success is becoming one of the most respected young faces in the indie film world. This festival, she came out as gay and spoke out against so-called conversion therapy alongside Chloë Grace Moretz, who has emerged as an outspoken LGBT ally. But this film was not the only one who featured queer ladies from the first to final frame.
Lizzie, a romantic retelling of the life of accused murderer Lizzie Borden, was, in fact, a lesbian period drama that can go toe to toe to fan favorite Carol. The project, which was spearheaded from its inception by Chloë Sevigny (who plays the titular character), features her in a forbidden relationship with none other than Kristen Stewart. Stewart gives an outrageously moving performance, and as an openly queer woman herself, seizes the screen from Sevigny in a flick that will make all queer chicks squeal and swoon.
Lizzie premiered before the showing of Tully, Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman’s newest collaboration, in which Charlize Theron plays a bisexual mom. Theron’s performance is unsurprisingly stunning, but the screening was a special honor at the competitive festival. Tully was one of the hottest tickets to score in Park City and featured a holistic bisexual lead permitted to exist outside her queerness. The film, produced by Focus Features, will be in theaters everywhere.
But back at the Sundance theaters, it felt more like Outfest than Cannes. The Judd Apatow–produced rom-com Juliet, Naked offered up a relatable lesbian best friend struggling to stop chasing straight women in a way that will make you laugh (and cringe about those early college years.) The documentary portion offered the film Believer, where Imagine Dragons’ Mormon front man, Dan Reynolds, took on the church’s mistreatment of LGBT youth and its alleged connections to high suicide rates in Utah. Even gender-queer femmes showed up in A Kid Like Jake, which explores parenting a gender-nonconforming child who prefers Barbie to G.I. Joe.
In a landscape where high-quality queer films are still very much dominated by the stories of men, whether they are the storytellers or the ones on screen, this year was all about the ladies. Akhavan may take home the prestige, and her film might have scored the laurel, but queer women have won the most: the chance to be celebrated and heard in our culture.