Newfest returns to New York City for it’s 27th year to celebrate the best in LGBT cinema. The five-day festival (October 22-27) will be housed at the newly renovated Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas and feature almost 100 films, ranging from shorts to features to documentaries.
From gripping period pieces to heart-wrenching documentaries, NewFest examines the gestalt of the queer experience.
“Our world is almost impossibly diverse,” said NewFest programmer Adam Baran. “And as a film festival, it is our duty to showcase that world as best we can. From people of color to youth films to more films by and about women, we want to illuminate as many aspects of the LGBTQ experience as possible.”
Documentary such as Greg Louganis: Back on Board and Seed Money paint beautifully complex and deeply compelling portraits of LGBT icons, while family dramas like Todd Haynes' Carol (starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) and Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party examines the everyday lives of gay men and women bristling against social norms.
It’s hard to pick favorites from such a stellar crop of cinematic offerings, but here are 10 must-see films that might not be on your radar from this year’s festival.
EISENSTEIN IN GUANAJUATO
Dir/Scr: Peter Greenaway, Netherlands, 2015, 105 min
Eisenstein in Guanajuato kicks off Newfest with an opening night gala. Director Peter Greenaway celebrates the life of one of cinema’s brightest luminaries with this bold, sexually explicit depiction of Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein’s gay coming-of-age trip to Mexico in the 1930s. Replete with stunning sets and costumes, the story of Eisenstein’s tryst with his tour guide set the Berlinale in a frenzy after its premiere and will probably do the same in New York.
Dir/Scr: Alexandra-Therese Keining, 2016, Sweden, 105 min, In Swedish with English subtitles
Rounding out the festival with a closing night gala, Girls Lost is Alexandra-Therese Keining’s teen adventure. Hot off its premier at TIFF, the film spans the gestalt of the LGBT spectrum. Kim, Momo, and Bella are bullied by boys at school and receive no help from their teachers. If that weren’t the cause of enough teenaged angst, Kim believes she was born in the wrong body. When the trio happen upon a plant whose nectar temporarily turns them into boys (working parts included), it offers them the chance to experience freedoms and sensations. But when Kim can’t stop using the plant and pursues a dangerous relationship with a boy she thinks might be gay, it plunges the trio into danger.
FASSBINDER: TO LOVE WITHOUT DEMANDS
Dir/Scr: Christian Braad Thomsen, 2015, Germany, 109 min, In German with English subtitles
Rainer Werner Fassbinder was one of the most talented and prolific gay directors of all time. Between 1966 and 1982, Fassbinder made 44 films a good many of which featured LGBT themes, characters, and stories. Director Christian Braad Thomsen weaves together never-before-seen interviews with the director, as well as interviews with members of Fassbinder’s company to paint an in-depth and complex portrait of the auteur and his career.
4TH MAN OUT
Dir: Andrew Nackman, Scr: Aaron Dansick 2015, USA, 95 min
Adam’s a small-town dude-bro who likes beer, hockey, and, as it turns out, other guys. This heartwarming and hilarious film follows Adam as he comes out to his friends, and they decide to help him find a boyfriend. Winner of the 2015 Dramatic Feature Audience Award at Outfest, this friendship comedy is as funny as it is heartwarming.
YOU’RE KILLING ME
Dir: Jim Hansen, Scr: Jim Hansen, Jeffery Self, USA, 2015, 88 min
In this twisted, gory, horror comedy, snarky internet comedian George doesn’t believe his deranged new boyfriend, Joe, when he tells him he’s a serial killer. Thinking that it’s all a gag, George goes along with it, unknowingly encouraging Joe to keep on killing. But soon his increasingly suspicious friends start disappearing, and George could be in for a very rude awakening. Cult comedy favorites Drew Droege, Jack Plotnick and Mindy Cohn all add to the body count.
Dir: Alden Peters, USA, 2015, 72 min
When Alden Peters decided to come out, he brought along a camera to recored each conversation in the hopes that it’d keep away any negative reactions. During the course of this documentary, Peters examines the phenomenon of LGBTQ kids coming out to their loved ones on YouTube. Showcasing interviews with Janet Mock, and other queer icons, Coming Out explores the shared experiences among queers across generations.
GAZELLE: THE LOVE ISSUE
Dir/Scr: Cesar Terranova, Brazil/French Polynesia/USA, 2014, 93 min
Paulo leads a double life. By day, he’s a Brazilian flight attendant. By night, he’s Gazelle, a NYC clubkid queen who serves up jaw-dropping looks. But when the HIV-positive Paulo finds his health compromised and ghosts from his past return to haunt him, Paulo make another transformation to save his life. Featuring appearances by Amanda Lepore, Joey Arias, Flawless Sabrina, Michael Musto, Kenny Kenny and others, Gazelle is an exuberant, true-to-life look at a truly one-of-a-kind character.
Dir/Scr: Michael Stabile, USA, 2015, 69 min
Michael Stabile pulls no punches with this sexually charged documentary. Bringing the audience back to the 80s, Stabile takes a hard look at Falcon Studios, the biggest gay porn company in the world and the man who ran it, Chuck Holmes, who battled with both FBI persecution and AIDS. Using archival footage and interviews with some of porn’s biggest names and fans, including Jeff Stryker, Jake Shears, John Waters, Chi Chi LaRue and others, Stabile adeptly traces Holmes’s wild, chaotic, and at times harrowing story.
HENRY GAMBLE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY
Dir/Scr: Stephen Cone, 2015, USA, English, 87 min
Christian teen Henry Gamble is skilled at hiding his sexuality from his ultra-religious parents and the anti-gay community that surrounds them. For his 17th birthday, Henry’s parents throw him a pool party. Passions and tempers flare and erupt in this gripping portrait of a closed community at odds with emerging desires in modern times.
THE GIRL KING
Dir: Mika Kaurismäki, Scr: Michel Marc Bouchard, Finland, Canada, Germany, Sweden, 2015, 106 min, in English, French, and German with English subtitles
A steamy and sumptuous period piece, The Girl King reimagines Greta Garbo’s 1933 Hollywood historical drama, Queen Christina. Taking a less coy look at the Swedish Queen’s lesbianism, this romantic re-imagining doesn’t flinch as the queer queen invites her beautiful handmaiden to be her “bed-warmer” and refuses to don dresses or marry. But these aberrations from the norm will not be tolerated by the conservative political establishment and Queen Christina must face the consequences of her nonconformity.