TransLash Guide to Sundance Film Festival 2024

By Daniela “Dani” Capistrano for TransLash Media

Sundance Film Festival 2024 received over 17,000 submissions from storytellers worldwide and is screening 91 feature length and episodic works and 53 short films in Park City, Salt Lake City, and online. Over 60% of the feature films, plus Shorts and Indie Episodics, are available via the Festival’s online platform through Sunday, January 28.

TransLash’s guide to the 40th annual Sundance Film Festival is a living document being updated with trans-affirming films and resources through February 2024.

The Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, on the night prior to the Sundance Film Festival 2024.
The Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, on the night prior to the Sundance Film Festival 2024.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons & Frank Schulenburg

ABOUT SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 

Sundance Film Festival 2024 takes place in person from January 18 – 28, 2024, in Park City and Salt Lake City. The Sundance Film Institute was founded by Robert Redford in 1981 with the mission of fostering new voices in American storytelling. 

Today Sundance’s team works year-round to offer 12 labs and intensives, offering grants exceeding $3 million, and ongoing mentorships that support more than 1000 artists each year. Each January, the Sundance Film Festival introduces a global audience to groundbreaking work and emerging talent in independent film.

Since 1985, hundreds of films launched at Sundance Film Festival have gone on to gain critical acclaim and reach new audiences worldwide.

Be sure to listen to TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones episode “Trans Filmmakers at Sundance: The Stroll.”

This Sundance 2024 guide was created for trans, intersex, two-spirit, and gender nonconforming filmmakers looking for support and inspiration. Bookmark this page!

TransLash Media Interim Director of Digital and Social Daniela Capistrano
TransLash Media Interim Director of Digital & Social Daniela “Dani” Capistrano’s press badge at Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2024. Capistrano was part of Sundance Institute’s Press Inclusion Initiative.

ABOUT SUNDANCE 2024 

This year’s lineup at Sundance Film Festival includes 32 projects by filmmakers who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. You can purchase tickets to watch a selection of this year’s films online here from January 25–28, 2024. 

Grand Jury Prizes were awarded on January 26 to:

  • 🎞️ In The Summers (U.S. Dramatic Competition)
  • 🎞️ Porcelain War (U.S. Documentary Competition)
  • 🎞️ Sujo (World Cinema Dramatic Competition)
  • 🎞️ A New Kind of Wilderness (World Cinema Documentary Competition)

A Special Jury Award for NEXT presented by Adobe was presented to Desire Lines / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Jules Rosskam, Screenwriter: Nate Gualtieri, Producers: André Pérez, Amy E. Powell, Brittani Ward).

The Sundance Institute | Amazon MGM Studios Producers Award for Fiction went to Brad Becker-Parton for Stress Positions (U.S. Dramatic Competition) / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Theda Hammel, Producers: Brad Becker-Parton, John Early, Stephanie Roush, Allie Jane Compton, Greg Nobile) .

Learn more about the films at Sundance 2024 that feature TGNC directors and trans narratives below.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

🎞️ TRANSGENDER DIRECTORS: FEATURES

🎞️ TRANS & NON-BINARY DIRECTORS: SHORTS

🎞️ GENDER NONCONFORMING DIRECTORS: FEATURES

🎞️ FILMS WITH TGNC CHARACTERS & PUBLIC FIGURES

🎞️ TWO-SPIRIT NARRATIVES & RESOURCES

🎞️ INTERSEX NARRATIVES & RESOURCES

🎞️ WHY TRANS REPRESENTATION MATTERS AT FILM FESTIVALS

🎞️ TGNC-AFFIRMING RESOURCES FOR FILMMAKERS

TRANSGENDER DIRECTORS AT SUNDANCE 2024 (FEATURES)

Jane Schoenbrun – I Saw the TV Glow

Jane Schoenbrun (they/she) is a trans non-binary American filmmaker, writer, and curator dedicated to making and supporting personal, queer cinema. 

Jane Schoenbrun
Jane Schoenbrun, Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Their work includes I Saw the TV Glow, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, A Self-Induced Hallucination, and the punk rock variety TV show The Eyeslicer. Their first novel is almost finished, and their New Year’s Resolution is to get more comfortable with silence. 

🎞️ Follow Jane on IG: @janedoesnotknow

I Saw the TV Glow
I Saw the TV Glow, Courtesy of Sundance Institute

I Saw the TV Glow stars Justice Smith (who is queer) and Brigette Lundy-Paine (who is non-binary). Emma Stone and Dave McCary serve as producers under their Fruit Tree banner.

With I Saw the TV Glow, writer-director Jane Schoenbrun further introduces us to a new genre of their own design: emo horror. Jane’s follow-up feature to We’re All Going to the World’s Fair features teenager Owen, who is just trying to make it through life in the suburbs when his classmate introduces him to a mysterious late-night TV show called “The Pink Opaque” — a vision of a supernatural world beneath their own. In the pale glow of the television, Owen’s view of reality begins to crack.

William Earl of Variety wrote, “the heart of the film is delicate and intimate, centered around what the trans community refers to as ‘the egg crack moment.’”

“My own ‘egg crack’ was at 32,” Schoenbrun told Variety. “When I wrote this movie, I was still very early in my physical transition and dealing with that moment in a very visceral way myself. I was doing a lot of reflecting on how the glow of queerness had been there forever. But I was finding the language and courage to explore those parts of myself.” 

David Ehrlich of IndieWire wrote, “Schoenbrun’s astonishing second feature manages to retain the seductive fear of their micro-budget debut and deepen its thrilling wounds of discovery even while examining them at a much larger scale.” 

Explore I Saw the TV Glow’s Wikipedia page for more resources and follow the film on Instagram for updates: @isawthetvglow

Jules Rosskam – Desire Lines (Documentary Feature)

Jules Rosskam is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker, artist, and trans scholar. Through the use of autoethnography and hybrid forms, Rosskam’s interdisciplinary practice investigates the means by which we construct individual and collective histories and identities. 

Jules Rosskam
Courtesy of julesrosskam.com

Rosskam built his editing and production career in New York City. His prior films include transparent (2006), against a trans narrative (2008), Thick Relations (2012), Paternal Rites (2018), Something to Cry About (2018), and Dance, Dance, Evolution (2019), and have screened at prominent museums and film festivals worldwide. He is an Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Maryland.

🎞️ Follow Jules Rosskam on IG: @julesrosskamfilms

Desire Lines
Aden Hakimi and Theo Germaine appear in Desire Lines by Jules Rosskam, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, and winner of The Sundance Institute | Amazon MGM Studios Producers Award for Fiction. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Marie Hinson.

In Desire Lines, past and present collide when an Iranian American trans man time-travels through an LGBTQ+ archive on a dizzying and erotic quest to unravel his own sexual desires.

This hybrid documentary is a tender love letter to the gay transmasculine community and the legacy that Lou Sullivan, and many unnamed others like him, left behind.

Leading trans academic Jules Rosskam makes his Sundance debut with this daring, sexy exploration of the interdependence of gender expression and sexuality. Deploying a hybrid approach, Rosskam blends a deeply intellectual interrogation of the archive, a sharp erotic imagination, and a series of breathtakingly intimate interviews to create this layered document of transmasculine sexuality and its profoundly social roots and ripples.

Cast: Theo Germaine, Aden Hakimi. World Premiere. Documentary

Desire Lines will premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2024 on January 22. It will also be available online for the public (January 25–28) on the Sundance websiteExplore the Desire Lines website here.

Yance Ford – Power (Documentary Feature)

Yance Ford is an Oscar nominated Black trans producer and director. 

Yance Ford
Yance Ford, Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Yance’s debut documentary film Strong Island premiered at Sundance in 2017 to critical acclaim, winning a Special Jury Award for Storytelling. Strong Island was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and won a Primetime Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking. Ford’s scripted and documentary work can be seen on Showtime, FX, Apple TV+, Netflix, and Smithsonian Channel. 

🎞️ Follow Yance Ford on Twitter/X: @yford

Power by Yance Ford
A still from Power by Yance Ford, an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

In 2024, Power is Ford’s sweeping chronicle of the history and evolution of policing in the U.S., produced by Sweta Vorha, Jess Devaney (they/she), Yance Ford, and Netsanet Negussie.

Driven to maintain social order, policing in the United States has exploded in scope and scale over hundreds of years. Now, American policing embodies one word: power.

Asking pointed, uncomfortable questions about privilege and class; about who belongs to the social order and who is excluded; and about our collective responsibility in actively or tacitly permitting those in power to escape accountability, Power confronts us with the prescient words of Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Ford told AP “I think that Netflix is largely responsible for the documentary landscape that exists today. It was responsible for giving the public access to films like mine.”

Matthew Carrey of Deadline documented this statement by Ford: “One of the things that people need to realize is that an individual police officer is more powerful on a day-to-day basis in your life than any other branch of government. And I think when people, what we’re asking people to do is really to take a step back and think about their relationship to that power. Do you deploy police to feel safe? Do other people deploy police against you to feel safe? Where are you in relation to the exercise of the police power in our society? And I think that when people start to ask themselves that question, hopefully they’ll realize how vast the police power is actually in the United States.”

IndieWire called Power “a dryly succinct but thoroughly convincing Netflix documentary about the corruptive history of American policing.”

Power is not yet available online for the public. Check Netflix for updates.

Theda Hammel – Stress Positions

Theda Hammel is co-host of the KNFW Nymphowars Podcast with Macy Rodman. She has a master’s in music technology from NYU Steinhardt and has released three EPs (Very Great, SondHamm, and Partial Magic). 

Theda Hammel
Theda Hammel, Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Theda’s original music can be found at majortransceleb.bandcamp.com. Her short film My Trip To Spain premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

🎞️ Follow Theda Hammel on IG: @majortransceleb

John Early appears in Stress Positions by Theda Hammel
John Early appears in Stress Positions by Theda Hammel, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by NEON.

In Stress Positions, Terry Goon is keeping strict quarantine in his ex-husband’s Brooklyn brownstone while caring for his nephew — a 19-year-old model from Morocco named Bahlul — bedridden in a full leg cast after an electric scooter accident. Unfortunately for Terry, everyone in his life wants to meet the model.

Hammel casts herself as Carla, an ambitionless bodyworker in a foundering relationship with a lesbian named Vanessa Ravel (Amy Zimmer), whom Carla has accused of stealing her life story of transition as fodder for Vanessa’s debut novel. But it’s Carla who now enjoys the spoils of that book’s success, living rent-free in Vanessa’s apartment.

Stress Positions is as much a finely tuned time capsule of the frantic fear and formative power of the pandemic as it is a road map out of dark places guided by a profound humanity. A careful balance between a consistent, razor-sharp humor and the development of a distinctive cinematic tone creates a particular mood and energy that is not easily forgotten.

Returning to the Sundance Film Festival after her 2021 appearance as writer-director and star of the Episodic My Trip to Spain, Theda Hammel once again proves herself to be a prolific powerhouse with her directorial debut. Hammel’s clever script, energetic performance, confident directorial style, and beautifully crafted score come together in an exciting whirl of charisma and social commentary. 

Ryan Lattanzio of IndieWire wrote, “John Early is brilliant in COVID comedy that sees millennials for who they really are.”

Brent Lang of Variety wrote, “Theda Hammel miraculously finds the funny side of lockdown, mining the masks, Purell and social distancing that defined that unhappy era for physical comedy.”  

Cast: René Pérez Joglar, Sasha Calle, Lío Mehiel, Leslie Grace, Emma Ramos, Sharlene Cruz. World Premiere.

Stress Positions will be available to stream online January 25 – 28

Amrou Al-Kadhi – Layla

A writer, director, actor, and drag performer, Amrou Al-Kadhi (they/them/theirs) has written for Apple’s Little America and BBC America’s The Watch. They have also written and directed four shorts centering queer people of color. 

Amrou Al-Kadhi, director of Layla, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Nick Delisi.
Amrou Al-Kadhi, director of Layla, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Nick Delisi.

Al-Kadhi’s solo drag show, Glamrou, has toured internationally, and they acted in the recent season of American Horror Stories. Their debut book with HarperCollins, Unicorn, won the Somerset Maugham Award.

🎞️ Follow Amrou Al-Kadhi on IG: @glamrou

Bilal Hasna appears in Layla by Amrou Al-Kadh, Bilal Hasna, and Louis Greatorex, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Bilal Hasna appears in Layla by Amrou Al-Kadh, Bilal Hasna, and Louis Greatorex, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

When Layla, a struggling Arab drag queen, falls in love for the first time, they lose and find themself in a transformative relationship that tests who they really are.

Amrou Al-Kadhi’s propulsive direction shines alongside Bilal Hasna’s breakout performance, and while Layla, the character, may be going through some qualms about identity, the film itself is a proud queer love story — with all the complications involved. 

Under Al-Kadhi’s care, the audience is ushered into the sanctity of queer spaces, the nightclub and the beauty supply store, places for more than just entertainment, doors to a more embodied, honest existence, a home, an Eden of sorts. Al-Kadhi is unafraid to question who isn’t welcome in these spaces and the isolation one faces when certain demarcation becomes too clear to ignore. Layla is a tale of self-acceptance and community love, where there’s plenty of sparkle to go around.

Damon Wise of Deadline wrote that Layla is “a frank and emotionally honest portrait of someone who falls outside society’s boxes and steadfastly refuses to conform to them.”

William Bibbiani of The Wrap wrote that “Layla is a familiar romantic drama about two people finding each other, struggling to see each other, and coming to realizations about themselves in the process. It’s sweet when it’s sad and it’s sad when it’s sweet.”

Layla will be available to stream online January 25 – 28

TRANS & NON-BINARY DIRECTORS (SHORTS)

Angalis Field – BUST

Angalis Field is an American screenwriter, director, and photographer living in New York City.  His debut short The Dalles premiered at Sundance in 2023. 

Angalis Field, director of BUST, an official selection of the U.S. Shorts Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance I
Angalis Field, director of BUST, an official selection of the U.S. Shorts Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Field is an MFA Candidate at NYU Tisch. BUST is his thesis film.

Follow Angalis Field on IG: @angalisfield

Lux Pascal and Nicky DeMarie appear in BUST by Angalis Field, an official selection of the U.S. Shorts Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Lux Pascal and Nicky DeMarie appear in BUST by Angalis Field, an official selection of the U.S. Shorts Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

In BUST, a trans cop with the New York City Police Department goes undercover to make a drug bust.

BUST is part of the Short Film Program 3 block at Sundance Film Festival 2024 on January 20 and will be available to stream online January 25 – 28

GENDER NONCONFORMING DIRECTORS (FEATURES)

Jazmin Jones – Seeking Mavis Beacon (Documentary Feature)

Jazmin Jones (she/they) is a Brooklyn–based, Bay Area–raised visual storyteller, archivist, and organizer. Jones’ aim is to create platforms for more vibrant and nuanced representation of the marginalized communities she’s a part of.

Jazmin Jones, director of Seeking Mavis Beacon, an official selection of the NEXT program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Yeelen Cohen.
Jazmin Jones, director of Seeking Mavis Beacon, an official selection of the NEXT program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Yeelen Cohen.

Working across visual mediums, her projects often echo personal experiences as a queer, nonbinary Black femme waging intimacy in the post-internet era. 

At the world premiere of Seeking Mavis Beacon, Jones told TransLash Media that the inclusion of queer and trans imagery was very intentional. Read our review and watch the Q&A replay excerpt here.

Seeking Mavis Beacon is Jones’ first feature.

🎞️ Follow Jazmin Jones on Instagram: @jazminrjones

Seeking Mavis Beacon is a queer and trans film
Jazmin Jones appears in Seeking Mavis Beacon, an official selection of the NEXT program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Yeelen Cohen.

Launched in the late ’80s, educational software Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing taught millions globally, but the program’s Haitian-born cover model vanished decades ago. In Seeking Mavis Beacon, two DIY investigators search for the unsung cultural icon, while questioning notions of digital security, AI, and Black representation in the digital realm.

According to Filmmaker Magazine, Jazmin was eight years old and living in the Bay Area when she first encountered Mavis Beacon, a fictional figure created by the cofounder of MySpace to represent the popular Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing software game.

“I’m a pupil of Mavis Beacon’s,” Jones told Filmmaker. “‘I owe this woman so much. When I was learning the game, they had these little Black hands that mimic typing. It was so amazing to see a digitized version of a body like mine on screen at such a foundational age.” 

But, as Jones grew older she has realized Beacon is a bit of “a problematic fave”: “As I have continued to work in the digital arts and to think about self-representation as a Black woman, I have needed to retrace my steps and think, ’Why was Mavis Beacon Black? What was that racialized and gendered casting choice about?’” 

Seeking Mavis Beacon premiered at Sundance 2024 on January 20 and will be available to stream online January 25 – 28

Alessandra Lacorazza – In The Summers

Alessandra Lacorazza (she/they) is a queer Colombian American writer-director based in Brooklyn and a 2020 WGA East FilmNation NY Screenwriters fellow and 2020 NALIP Media Market fellow.

Alessandra Lacorazza, director of In The Summers,  an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Alessandra Lacorazza, director of In The Summers, an official selection and Grand Jury Prizes winner of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Their short Mami premiered at the 2019 Palm Springs International ShortFest. Her work has been supported by NYFA and FOFIF, and has been a part of the Tribeca Film Festival Creators Market.

In addition to the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, for In The Summers, director Alessandra Lacorazza also received the Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic.

🎞️ Follow Alessandra Lacorazza on Instagram: @uit14

A still from In The Summers by Alessandra Lacorazza, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
The Summers, Courtesy of Sundance Institute

On a journey that spans the formative years of their lives, two sisters navigate their loving but volatile father during their yearly summer visits to his home in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

With grounded thoughtfulness, debut feature director Alessandra Lacorazza weaves a rich tapestry of memories in New Mexico as childhood and adolescence collide with the realities of adulthood. René Pérez Joglar (also known by his musical moniker Residente) gives a layered and gut-wrenching performance as the charming-yet-troubled Vicente, struggling to fully connect with his daughters through games that slowly lose their luster in the shadow of his habits.

A talented cast, including Sasha Calle and Lío Mehiel (Sundance Special Jury Prize for Performance as the lead of last year’s Mutt), inhabit Violeta and Eva through cinematic ellipses as their understanding of their father deepens. In The Summers proves both an emotional capsule of growing up within a fragmented family and a love letter to the resilience needed to survive.

In The Summers is available online for the public January 25–28.

FILMS FEATURING TRANS CHARACTERS & PUBLIC FIGURES AT SUNDANCE 2024

Alex Hedison – ALOK (Documentary Short)

Alex Hedison is an internationally acclaimed photographer, artist, and actress.

Alex Hedison, director of ALOK,  an official selection of the U.S. Shorts Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Alex Hedison, director of ALOK, an official selection of the U.S. Shorts Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Alex is a critical voice in both the artistic and LGBTQ+ communities and ALOK marks Hedison’s directorial debut. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her wife, Oscar-winning actor/director Jodie Foster, and their dog Ziggy.

Alok Vaid-Menon appears in ALOK  by Alex Hedison, an official selection of the U.S. Shorts Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Alok Vaid-Menon appears in ALOK by Alex Hedison. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

ALOK is a compelling portrait of ALOK, acclaimed nonbinary author, poet, comedian, and public speaker.

ALOK was part of the Short Film Program 1 block at Sundance Film Festival 2024 on January 18 and will be available to stream online January 25 – 28. 

Peter Sillen – Love Machina (Documentary Feature)

Pete Sillen is a New York–based documentary filmmaker directing portraits of an array of individuals living and working outside stereotypical 9-to-5 situations.

Peter Sillen, director of Love Machina, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Peter Sillen, director of Love Machina, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

“There’s an energy when Martine and Bina walk in a room. You feel it… and it’s kind of electric,” Peter Sillen told IndieWire. “With this film, it’s interesting to see people who are very cognizant of their relationship as stronger together than apart and how that forges and solidifies their resolve to accomplish great things.” 

A still from Love Machina by Peter Sillen, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Peter Sillen.
A still from Love Machina, Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Peter Sillen

Love Machina premiered at Sundance on January 19, 2024. This fascinating documentary is where futurism meets love, where love meets humanity, and where humanity meets AI. Director Peter Sillen (Benjamin Smoke, 62,000:1 Three Teams One City One Year) delivers a film transcending time and space. 

In Love Machina, we join Futurists Martine and Bina Rothblatt’s on their extraordinary journey to commission an advanced humanoid AI named Bina48 to transfer Bina’s consciousness from a human to a robot, in an attempt to continue their once-in-a-galaxy love affair for the rest of time.

Martine Aliana Rothblatt, who is trans, is an American lawyer, author, entrepreneur, and transgender rights advocate. With Love Machina, Sillen shares a love story between Martine and Bina Rothblatt, entangling us in their world of passion and extravagant determination. Sillen began filming in 2017, before the recent developments in AI, but Martine and Bina have been working on this project since the early 2000s. 

At the forefront of many social movements, Martine and Bina set out to do what previously seemed impossible, taking their love story past “till death do us part” to “as long as we both shall live.” Thoughtful and inquisitive, Sillen dares to transport us to infinity and beyond.

Love Machina will be available to stream online January 25 – 28. 

Josh Greenbaum – Will & Harper (Documentary Feature)

Josh Greenbaum is a filmmaker in both documentary and narrative film.

Josh Greenbaum, director of Will & Harper,  an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Alex Berliner.
Josh Greenbaum, director of Will & Harper, an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Alex Berliner.

His narrative debut Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, starring Kristen Wiig, was nominated for a Critics Choice Award, and he recently directed the hit comedy Strays, starring Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx. His documentary films include The Short Game, Becoming Bond, and Too Funny to Fail.

Will Ferrell and Harper Steele appear in Will & Harper by Josh Greenbaum, an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Will Ferrell and Harper Steele appear in Will & Harper by Josh Greenbaum. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

When Will Ferrell finds out his close friend of 30 years is coming out as a trans woman, the two decide to embark on a cross-country road trip to process this new stage of their relationship in an intimate portrait of friendship, transition, and America.

Will Ferrell and Harper Steele are humorously and lovingly vulnerable in director Josh Greenbaum’s latest documentary, Will & Harper. Through the frame of a decades-long friendship (and the windshield of Harper’s Jeep), the pair reconnect in emotional and unexpected ways as they journey across middle America.

Layers of friendship are laid bare as Harper reenters once-safe spaces as her authentic self, reintroducing the eccentric yet earnest Will to the woman he’s always known. Their levity is reinforced and challenged: Harper embraces her newfound identity amid adversity, as Will is invited to stand by her, negotiating his celebrity in the process. What emerges is an exploration of both silliness and strife, a sincere facet of the trans experience audiences rarely witness, and an affirmation of the unbreakable bonds of friendship.

Will & Harper is not currently available to stream online.

TWO-SPIRIT NARRATIVES & RESOURCES AT SUNDANCE 2024

While we don’t currently see any Two–Spirit specific films in the Sundance Film Festival 2024 schedule, here is where you can access a guide to all the Indigenous works at this year’s festival.

Albert Rounds and Luciane Buchanan appear in Lea Tupu'anga / Mother Tongue by Vea Mafile'o, an official selection of the International Shorts Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Ralph Brown.
Albert Rounds and Luciane Buchanan appear in Lea Tupu’anga / Mother Tongue by Vea Mafile’o, an official selection of the International Shorts Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Ralph Brown.

Additionally, The Sundance Institute Indigenous Program champions and provides deep support of Indigenous-created stories on a global scale. From labs and fellowships to screenings and gatherings around the world, the program’s offerings are designed in response to the specific needs of Native and Indigenous storytellers. 

The Indigenous Program focuses on the specific development of storytellers from Native and Indigenous backgrounds, encompassing feature film and episodic work. Fellows will receive hands-on support from the Institute and advisors, including one-on-one feedback sessions and roundtable discussions. Learn more here.

Listen to TransLash Podcast episode Native Americans and Trans Rights:

You can also access the full transcript here.

INTERSEX NARRATIVES AT SUNDANCE 2024

Esteban Arango – Ponyboi

​​Esteban Arango is an award-winning Colombian American writer-director. Blast Beat, Arango’s feature film directorial debut, was produced by MACRO, starring Moises Arias, Mateo Arias, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, and Kali Uchis.

Esteban Arango, director of Ponyboi,  an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Esteban Arango, director of Ponyboi, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Ponyboi is Arango’s sophomore feature film. Learn more:

Premiering at Sundance this year, Ponyboi will also be available to stream online on January 25.

Ponyboi, Courtesy Sundance Institute
Ponyboi, Courtesy Sundance Institute

Written by and starring River Gallo and based on the 2019 Tribeca award-winning short film, Ponyboi follows an intersex worker on the run from the mob.

Unfolding over the course of Valentine’s Day in New Jersey, Ponyboi must run after a drug deal goes sideways, forcing him to confront his past.

Flipping the script on the LGBTQIA+ return home tale and the classic Jersey mobster saga, this neon-soaked story is not only full of action but also pure moments of tenderness. Complicated and hilarious, Ponyboi’s journey exposes a kaleidoscope of ways humanity is sugary sweet under hard surfaces. Backdrops of laundromats, diners, and the Jersey Shore create a heightened sense of place and time that is at once precisely transportative and fantastically imaginary.

Gallo told Filmmaker Magazine that “writing the feature was a lot about my own personal freedom, how I could liberate myself from the boxes that I was put under being queer, intersex, trans, Latino, from New Jersey [laughs]—all these things that people say make me an outsider.”

At the world premiere Q&A, River answered an audience question about a pivotal scene between Indya Moore’s character Charlie and River’s character Ponyboi that River defined as a cinema history-making scene:

During the Q&A, Indya Moore vulnerably shared their experience collaborating with Arango and Gallo on Ponyboi. Watch the replay here and access the transcript.

We will share more replays from the Ponyboi Q&A in the coming days.

🎞️ Follow Ponyboi on IG: @ponyboi_film

🎞️ Follow River Gallo: @rivergallo

🎞️ Follow Esteban Arango: @esteban_arango

WHY TRANS REPRESENTATION MATTERS AT FILM FESTIVALS

As reported by NBC News, more than 400 feature-length LGBTQ+ films have already screened at Sundance during its first four decades.

Some Sundance Film Festival 2024 statistics: according to GLAAD, 4 (5%) were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as non-binary; 15 (23%) were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ+; and 5 (7%) were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as transgender.

Out of 83 features screened at this year’s festival, 5 were directed by trans filmmakers. 

Sharing trans fiction and nonfiction stories through a trans lens is essential to supporting trans rights; it’s why TransLash Media’s mission is to tell trans stories to save trans lives.

As GLSEN explains, trans representation in media becomes a powerful tool for dispelling stereotypes, empowering queer and trans youth, and validating their unique experiences and identities. When trans youth encounter authentic portrayals in media, it sends a resounding message: their lives, stories, and contributions matter.

At this year’s fest, GLAAD partnered with renowned LGBTQ+ film festivals, Frameline and NewFest, to present “Cheers, Queers” during the 40th edition of the Sundance Film Festival. This unique event, hosted at the Acura House of Energy at 550 Swede Alley on Friday, January 19, featured a groundbreaking panel and party to honor queer cinema and filmmakers.

Additionally, GLAAD closed out the weekend’s activities on January 22, spotlighting transgender storytellers at The Box Theater, featuring a fireside chat with trans director Yance Ford about his career and the premiere of his latest documentary Power.

That conversation was followed by spotlighting trans storytellers and organization representatives Moi Santos (Manager, Sundance Institute), River Gallo (Actor/Screenwriter/Producer, Ponyboi) and Sav Rodgers (Director & Founder, Transgender Film Center), moderated by Alex Schmider (Producer and Director of Transgender Representation, GLAAD). The goal was to discuss the impact of authentic personal storytelling and the increasing value of community inclusion and connectivity in the entertainment industry.

We thank Sundance Film Institute for supporting trans filmmakers and encourage Sundance to continue to increase trans representation at each year’s festival.

We also thank all news organizations and media brands that have been reporting on trans stories at Sundance 2024; here’s what we’ve read so far*:

TGNC-AFFIRMING RESOURCES FOR TGNC FILMMAKERS

*We’ll continue to add more TGNC-affirming Sundance 2024 coverage to this guide during and after the fest, including awards information as it becomes available. Bookmark this page and subscribe to our newsletter for alerts: translash.org/connect

Did you find this resource helpful? Consider supporting TransLash today with a tax-deductible donation. Did we miss anything? Let us know and we’ll update the guide with your suggestion, crediting you as the contributor.

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TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.

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TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.

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