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Sundance festival

Sundance festival


What brouhaha could bring Tony Kushner, Rosie O'Donnell, Robin Williams, Gretchen Mol, and Kevin Smith together in the same theater--aside from, perhaps, the GLAAD Media Awards? The 2006 Sundance Film Festival, of course. In January the leading American indie film festival is debuting over a dozen gay and gay-inclusive feature films.

Heading this year's wave of gay documentaries is All Aboard! Rosie's Family Cruise, an HBO-backed film following Rosie and Kelli O'Donnell's premiere R Family Vacations voyage. Director Shari Cookson catches both the joy of the all-ages passengers and the pooh-poohing by fundamentalist protesters. Produced by Kevin Smith, director Malcolm Ingram's Small Town Gay Bar focuses on the family-like bonds forged within and, alas, the homophobic adversaries plaguing a pair of gay Mississippi watering holes, Rumors and Crossroads. Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner's struggles and confrontations with Bush-era politics, AIDS, and his own Pulitzer Prize-winning work drive Oscar-winning director Freida Lee Mock's Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner.

But documentaries aren't hogging all of the fest's gay buzz. There's Forgiving the Franklins, about a clan of religious Southerners turned sexually open liberals; the Gretchen Mol-fronted lesbian romantic comedy Puccini for Beginners, from Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love writer-director Maria Maggenti; the Gus Van Sant-produced Wild Tigers I Have Known, about an adolescent's crush on an older boy; and director Patrick Stettner's adaptation of author Armistead Maupin's The Night Listener, in which Robin Williams portrays Gabriel, a gay radio host wrestling with a deteriorating relationship with younger boyfriend Jess (Bobby Cannavale) and a JT LeRoy-esque teen author who may or may not exist. Since the story has roots in painful autobiography--Gabriel and Jess are alter egos of Maupin and his ex Terry Anderson--"some of the more emotional scenes between Gabriel and Jess were not easy for Armistead to watch," Stettner tells The Advocate. "I remember Armistead saying it was like getting a colonoscopy."

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Lawrence Ferber