NewFest’s New York LGBT Film Festival wrapped on Tuesday, after hosting screenings of more than 100 of the best new queer films by filmmakers from the United States and around the world. NewFest has been operating for 29 years, but this year, the festival tried something new.
"This is first time in over 5 years that NewFest has had a jury,” says Programming and Operations Manager Nick McCarthy. “We were delighted to host a collection of esteemed and exciting colleagues that encompass the fields of filmmaking, criticism, marketing/distribution, activism, and programming to experience the varied voices of our 2017 filmmakers.”
The filmmakers, critics, and activists invited to participate on juries were asked to select the best films in four award new categories: Best US Narrative, Best New York Short, Best International Narrative, and Best Documentary. The jury also chose to acknowledge individual actors by awarding three special mentions for performance within the established categories.
In addition to the juried selections, four outstanding films were chosen by NewFest audiences to receive awards for Best Documentary Feature, Best Narrative Feature, Best Documentary Short, and Best Narrative Short. These reflect NewFest's theme of the glory and challenges of self-expression through unifying, crowd-pleasing stories—from a troublemaking girl in Ireland, to the archives of lesbian herstory, to life on and off the ballroom dancefloor, to the struggles and fantasies of a young gay Muslim in Indonesia.
Check out all the winning films from this year’s festival, below:
The Jury Award for Best US Narrative goes to The Feels, directed by Jenée LaMarque. Two brides-to-be throw a joint bachelorette party that ends up calling their whole relationship into question. Equal parts laughs, tears, and introspection, this modern take on a romantic comedy unravels the secrets that can plague even the strongest relationship. Outstanding performances and an earnest script make up the heart of this crazy-enjoyable film.
A special mention is given to both Zachary Booth and David Rysdahl for their outstanding performances in The Revival.
The Feels (Courtesy of NewFest)
The Jury Award for Best New York Short goes to Ace, directed by Morgan Kahn Nichols, in which an unlikely pair of teenagers perform an awkward social dance in a house with no parents.
A special mention is given to The Mess He Made, directed by Matthew Puccini, which takes place in the 15 anxiety-inducing minutes a gay man has to wait for the results of his Rapid HIV Test.
Ace (Courtesy of NewFest)
The Jury Award for Best International Narrative goes to The City of the Future. Directors Cláudio Marques and Marília Hughes Guerreiro have boldly collaborated on a naturalistic film about the nontraditional relationship of lovers Mila, Igor, and Gilmar that shuns convention, instead embracing love in all its dazzling iterations.
A special mention is given to Manuela Guevara for her riveting performance in The Devil's Magnificent, which has its world premiere at the festival. Guevara co-wrote the film, in which she plays Manu, a trans immigrant who must return to her native Chile after 10 years in France. In the days leading up to her departure, Manu’s platonic friend Daniel proposes marriage with the intention of solving her visa issues. Manu strongly considers the offer, but she’s wholly disheartened at the prospect of a life without love, romance, and sex—that is, until she meets a fellow foreigner who instills in her the hope for a romantic future.
The City of the Future (Courtesy of NewFest)
The Jury Award for Best Documentary goes to Alabama Bound, directed by Lara Embry and Carolyn Sherer. Exploring the legal roller-coaster ride of LGBTQ family rights in the American South, the film offers an intimate view into the lives of three lesbian families in Alabama, including the only openly-gay Alabama State Legislator Patricia Todd, as they make waves in the legal system fighting for the rights of their children. Filmed during the turning-point years when federal marriage equality was coming to a head in the courts, this riveting and powerful documentary tactfully imbues the viewer with hope and frustration as Patricia Todd leads the charge in next wave of the LGBTQ fight for equality: legal non-discrimination.
A special mention is given to Abu, a dazzling visual memoir about the complex dynamic the filmmaker has with his father, who was at once extremely modern and also rigidly traditional and unaccepting of his son’s true self. Director Arshad Khan highlights the fascinating intersection between being gay and being an immigrant, as he weaves a dizzying, hypnotic tapestry of personal and familial acceptance by employing home video, animation, and Bollywood films to express his path to self-discovery.
Alabama Bound (Courtesy of NewFest)
The Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature goes to Hot To Trot. Set in the swinging setting of same-sex competitive ballroom dancing, this tremendously entertaining documentary highlights the culture and art of dance as it humanistically profiles the compelling stories of four international dancers. Filmed over four years, director Gail Freedman closely follows the tight ensemble as they face global and health issues, yet they find comfort and hope as they twirl past life’s obstacles with the utmost poise and confidence. Who will take home the top prize and move closest to the rhythm? The heat is on in more ways than one.
Hot To Trot (Courtesy of NewFest)
The Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature goes to A Date For Mad Mary, the first feature film by director Darren Thornton. Mary has just been released from a six-month prison stint for a drunken bar fight. Her best friend Charlene is now getting married and wants to keep Mary at a distance, alienating her from their circle of friends. An encounter with a queer musician changes Mary's perspective and awakens her romantic spirit. The film also won the Breakthrough Award at the Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards.
A Date For Mad Mary (Courtesy of NewFest)
The Audience Award for Best Documentary Short goes to Love Letter Rescue Squad. Director Megan Rossman reflects on the Lesbian Herstory Archives, home to the world’s largest collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities.
Love Letter Rescue Squad (Courtesy of NewFest)
The Audience Award for Best Narrative Short goes to Pria, directed by Yudho Aditya. A young boy in Indonesia experiences the tensions between his Gay and Muslim identities all while dreaming about romance and romanticizing the freedoms of the western world.
Pria (Courtesy of NewFest)
Congratulations to the winning films, and thank you NewFest for continuing to give a platform to the best and brightest in queer cinema. For more information on NewFest 2017, visit newfest.org.