Ellen Huang’s Queer Lounge

Left to right: Alex Kondracke (screenwriter, Girltrash! and The L Word), Gabrielle Christian (South of Nowhere), Ellen Huang, Mandy Musgrave (South of Nowhere), Angela Robinson (director, D.E.B.S. and Girltrash!)

There are several films
she’s particularly interested in this year. “I’m very excited about a film called Be Like Others, a feature-length documentary about gays and lesbians in Iran,” she said, “and how many opt to go through gender reassignment surgery because it’s easier to change your sex in that society than it is to live as a gay or a lesbian.”

She’s also excited by The Guitar, the directorial debut of Amy Redford, daughter of Sundance founder Robert Redford. “Her feature is about a woman with a few more months left to live, and she decides to be freer with her love life. She experiments with both men and women. Saffron Burrows is starring as the lead.”

Huang also mentioned Sunshine Cleaning. “I don’t know exactly how deep the lesbian content goes, but it certainly has some beautiful women in it,” she said. “It’s about these two sisters who turn their lives around and start a crime-scene cleaning business. Emily Blunt and Amy Adams, who’s coming off Enchanted, are in it. She’s going to be a huge star. And Emily Blunt’s character becomes sexually obsessed with this woman who’s a blood bank technician.”

Also of note at the festival is the premiere of lesbian playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, redone for the screen by gay producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, starring Sanaa Lathan, Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad.

At this year’s Sundance,
as has been true in the past, there is more lesbian/bi content in the shorts than in the features. Huang particularly likes Pariah, which she saw at Outfest. “It’s just fantastic,” she said. “It’s about a lesbian teen who lives a dual life. She’s not out to her parents, so she’s a very feminine daughter at home, but when she goes out, she becomes very butch. It’s very well-done.”

Huang mentioned that Slamdance, a festival that runs concurrently to Sundance, is having a particularly good year for queer films. The Queer Lounge website contains a list of all films with LGBT content and/or by LGBT filmmakers at both festivals.

Besides bringing attention to LGBT films and filmmakers, Queer Lounge also has a well-deserved reputation for throwing the best parties in town (including the annual Homos Away From Home party on Jan. 24). Artists such as Cake and the Scissor Sisters have performed in the past, and guests have included everyone from Jared Leto and Naomi Watts to Alan Cumming and Jenny Shimizu.

This year will be no different. The Donnas will appear at the Queer Lounge Kickoff Party on Jan. 19, which honors the film Derek, a documentary about Derek Jarman that is narrated by Tilda Swinton. Swinton is also expected to attend.

Though Queer Lounge
is definitely Huang’s baby, she does miss her days of being more hands-on in film. A graduate of USC’s film school in its production program, Huang cast out actor Cathy DeBuono (Out at the Wedding) in one of her first lesbian films. “I remember her resume, a junior Olympian volleyball player,” Huang recalled. “I made a psycho-lesbian drama with my Super 8 camera.”

Queer Lounge allows Huang to stay connected with the film industry and continue her vision. “I’m kind of doing what I’ve always been doing in film, which is supporting filmmakers, but I’m just doing it in a different way,” she said.

And with Queer Lounge in particular, Huang has created something that is personally significant as well. “I’m bisexual, and I think that really reflects why I’ve created a lounge that bridges communities,” Huang explained. “There’s a part of me that wants to reconcile my own identities within me, and I think it’s interesting that Queer Lounge has become that. … It’s an interesting frontier for me, and not just as a bisexual woman. [I’m] someone who’s at the intersection of being Asian and a woman and bisexual, leading this organization.”

Author Armistead Maupin and Ellen Huang

Huang, who is single
(“Yes, very, like beyond”), hopes that the new alliance with GLAAD will allow her to have more of a personal life in addition to the benefits that the partnership will have for Queer Lounge.

“I’ve been married to my job for so long, and anytime you’re an entrepreneur, a company is like a baby,” she said. “It never leaves you alone, it never lets you take a vacation. You’re always worried about it, and it doesn’t allow me to make a lot of space for somebody in my life. That was part of making choices about going under a larger organization, because I just wanted to get my life back in balance.”

For someone who has done so much work toward creating a balanced playing field for LGBT representation on screen, she certainly deserves some balance for herself.

Queer Lounge can be found in Park City, Utah, from Jan. 18–24, 2008, during the Sundance Film Festival. For more information, visit Queer Lounge’s official website.