You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo’

Matt Livadary's debut feature offers a crowd-pleasing look at one long season on the gay rodeo circuit.


Wade Earp, Char Duran, Chris Sherman, Travis Gardner, Ty Teigen, Doug Graff, John Beck, David Renier.

More than the lighthearted color survey implied by its title, “Queens & Cowboys” charts one long season on the gay rodeo circuit, building rooting interest in specific protagonists as they try to win one coveted prize buckle. Winner of the top documentary prize at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, Matt Livadary’s crowd-pleasing debut feature deserves a look by programmers beyond gay fests, though its commercial life will probably be limited to niche home-format exposure.

Being unwelcome on the traditional, macho rodeo circuit — as brief input from some regulars there makes abundantly clear — but seeking a sense of community as well as a place to show off their hard-won skills, gay rodeo enthusiasts formed the Intl. Gay Rodeo Assn. in 1985. But in recent years the org’s numbers have shrunk, with chapters closing, costs skyrocketing and little fresh blood invigorating an aging membership. (This surely reflects the general decline in rural populations and financially viable small farming/ranching lifestyles.)

Nevertheless, IGRA remains an irreplaceable part of many people’s lives, specifically those of gay men and women who adamantly prefer country life, even with its frequent social isolation and discrimination. That’s certainly the case with the two principals here. Wade Earp (distantly related to Wild West legend Wyatt) travels thousands of miles every year from his one-man Texas ranch to points as distant as Fort Lauderdale, Detroit and Calgary, competing in a full range of rodeo heats with or without his trusty 20-year-old steed, Digit.

Char Duran, from Colorado, has a regular day job to support her own rodeo habit. (Women are much more welcome to compete at IGRA events than they are at most “straight” rodeos.) She’s tried her hand at bullriding for 14 years, acquiring a long resume of injuries but no buckle, and is determined to win just one before she ages out of the running.

Likewise in his 40s, Earp has won plenty of buckles, but never the top All-Around Cowboy prize, which has gone with exasperating predictability, year after year, to San Diego golden boy David Renier. Tall, handsome and cocky, Renier is painted here in such unsympathetic terms that his appearances might as well be scored to “You’re So Vain.”

Earp and Duran represent IGRA bedrock — unpretentious, well-liked, blue-collar folk to whom the rodeos mean everything. Others met more briefly include veteran John Beck, who recalls horrific pervasive homophobia back in the day, and ebullient 20-year-old Chris Sherman, whose own formative experience of bullying proves such things haven’t changed much in many rural communities. The film also drops in on an IGRA annual convention, plus several fundraisers for Ty Teigen, a beloved rodeo staple stricken with ovarian cancer.

Larger cultural context is provided by amusingly chosen archival clips of rodeo history, as well as an excerpt from notorious 1961 classroom gay-scare film “Boys Beware.” Attesting to lingering homophobia, occasional faces are obscured here, notably those of rodeo hands who do behind-the-scenes work for pay, and tell the camera they’d be blacklisted elsewhere if it became known that they work gay events.

Assembly is nothing fancy, but the pic is nicely paced and tech contributions are solid enough.

Film Review: 'Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo'

Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, Jan. 31, 2014. Running time: 93 MIN.


(Documentary) A Go West production. Produced by Erin Krozek, Matt Livadary.


Directed, written by Matt Livadary. Camera (color, HD), Livadary; editors, Livadary, Tim Strube; music, Joachim Cooker; sound, Jason Gaya.


Wade Earp, Char Duran, Chris Sherman, Travis Gardner, Ty Teigen, Doug Graff, John Beck, David Renier.

More Film

  • Jordan Peele'Us' film premiere, Arrivals, New

    Jordan Peele Explains the Meaning Behind the 'Us' Michael Jackson Reference

    Jordan Peele’s horror movie “Us” is filled with pop culture references, from “Jaws” to “Goonies.” But the most divisive might be right in his opening sequence. Warning, minor spoilers ahead. The movie about a couple (played by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) and their children being hunted and brutalized by a mysterious family that looks just [...]

  • Swiss Film Award Winners Led By

    ‘Those Who Work,’ ‘Chris the Swiss’ Top 2019 Swiss Film Awards

    Two debut features in writer-director Antoine Russbach’s “Those Who Work” and Anja Kofmel’s animated documentary “Chris the Swiss,” were the big winners at Friday night’s Swiss Film Awards, notching three plaudits each. Sold by Be For Films, “Those Who Work,” stars Belgian actor Olivier Gourmet, who has appeared in every single film by Jean-Pierre and [...]

  • Lupita Nyong'o as Adelaide Wilson doppelgänger

    Box Office: Jordan Peele's 'Us' to Easily Surpass 'Get Out' in Killer Opening Weekend

    Jordan Peele’s horror-thriller “Us” will likely slay the box office competition this weekend. It’s projected to generate an impressive $64 million through the weekend at 3,741 sites in North America, early estimates showed Friday. It’s over-performing recent forecasts, which had ranged from $38 million to $50 million. It should wind up with about $27 million [...]

  • France's Investment in Movies Plummeted in

    France's Film Production Levels Remained High in 2018, But Local Investment Plummeted

    While the volume of production in France remained high with 300 films made in 2018, investment in local films dropped by 15.2% to €1.12 billion ($1.26 billion), hit by the sharp decline in financing from traditional distribution deals and TV channels. Among the 300 films produced last year, 237 were French-majority films and 63 French-minority [...]

  • Unicorn Store Trailer

    Watch the First Trailer for Brie Larson's Directorial Debut, 'Unicorn Store'

    Brie Larson is seeking salvation from Samuel L. Jackson in Neflix’s first trailer for her directorial debut, the offbeat comedy-drama “Unicorn Store.” Larson is portraying a lonely 20-something dreamer who’s been kicked out of art school. She’s forced to move back home with her parents and take a temp job at a PR agency. But [...]

  • Patti Rockenwagner

    Chief Brand Officer Patti Röckenwagner Leaves STX Entertainment (EXCLUSIVE)

    Patti Röckenwagner is leaving STX Entertainment where she has served as the company’s chief brand officer. She announced her departure in a memo to staff, in which she said she was departing for “another opportunity.” The exit is an amicable one. Röckenwagner joined STX in 2016 as its chief communications officer before being promoted to [...]

  • Gabrielle Union

    10 Things We Learned at Variety’s 2019 Entertainment Marketing Summit

    Variety’s 2019 Entertainment Marketing Summit, which brought top execs to Hollywood’s NeueHouse on Thursday, covered considerable ground. From cutting through the noise in an oversaturated media landscape to welcoming exciting technology like virtual reality, industry veterans offered insight into what to expect from the marketing world in coming years. Here are 10 things we learned [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content