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A Judy Blume Documentary, Queer Werewolves, and Trans Sex Worker Stories at Sundance Film Festival 2023 – BUST Reviews

by Michael Lavine

Three more excellent offerings from the Sundance Film Festival.


Judy Blume Forever is a touching and comprehensive look into the life of the beloved author known for her relatable and honest portrayal of teenage life. The film lays out Blume’s incredible journey from suburban housewife to world-famous author. At 83 years old, a spry and charming Blume revisits her history with a series of revealing interviews. In 1975, Blume published Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, a novel that deals with the struggles of growing up and the questions and confusion that come with puberty. This book was groundbreaking in its frank and honest depiction of the female experience. Blume continued with a string of hits including the Fudge series, the Blubber series, and the Deenie series, all which dealt with sensitive and controversial topics such as sex, menstruation, and masturbation, and have been banned and challenged in many schools and libraries by right-wing zealots. One of the most fascinating and emotionally moving aspects of the film was Judy reading from a few of the thousands of letters she had received from her fans. Using loads of archival interview footage, home movies, beautiful colorful collages, and supplemented with a series of interviews with industry professionals, family members, and celebritiy fans like Samantha Bee, Lena Dunham, and Molly Ringwald, directors Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok weave an emotionally moving picture of Judy’s inspirational life.

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My Animal is a moody and evocative queer werewolf love story wrapped in a family drama. Heather (played with grace by Bobbi Salvör Menuez) practices as a goalie at the ice rink every day with her twin brothers and the help of their un-healthy father with the hope of one day playing on the local hockey team. At home in the basement, Heather masturbates to female wrestling on the TV. Heather’s mother is a raging alcoholic with a dirty family secret. Burdened with the knowledge that her daughter is a werewolf, she has to make sure that Heather is chained to her bed every month in time for the full moon. When Heather falls for newcomer skating beauty Jonine, (Former Bust cover star Amandla Stenberg) staying locked up in her bedroom is the last thing on her mind. Heather and Jonine’s friendship becomes more and more intimate, and much more dangerous. And the egg yolk sex dream is otherworldly. Shot with a glowing red palette and luscious tones, director Jaqueline Castel skillfully weaves a reimagining of a classic myth that explores the complexities of family dynamics and queer romance. The film ultimately becomes a powerful exploration of the themes of trust and self-acceptance.

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Kokomo City is a powerful and intimate exploration of the lives of four trans women sex workers, Daniella Carter, Dominque Silver, Liyah Mitchell, and Koko Da Dall. Through candid and frank interviews, the film delves into their personal lives through everyday activities such as getting dressed, shaving, and lounging in the living room, mixed with reenactments that illustrate some of their more colorful and emotional stories. Through their shared experiences and unique perspectives, the women reveal their deepest truths and offer an intimate and personal look into their lives. One of the most striking aspects of the film is the honest and insightful exploration of their sexuality and relationships within the Black community, particularly with Black cis women. The film also shines a light on the hard facts of trans sex work, the risks and dangers involved, and the lack of agency and resources that are often faced by those in the industry. The film is presented in stark black and white with dramatic contrast, and the filmmaker, D. Smith (a trans woman herself) succeeds in providing true insights into the lives of trans women and the struggles they face in living their truths. It is a powerful and moving film that raises important questions and encourages viewers to think more deeply about the complexities of the trans experience.

All photos courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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