The winners of NewFest: The 30th Annual New York LGBT Film Festival, have been announced! From Rafiki to Man Made to Skin, the 2018 honorees include stories from every corner of the LGBTQ community. Take a look at which films won the Jury and Audience Awards, along with special mentions, below.
Images and descriptions courtesy of NewFest.
Dir. Wanuri Kahiu, Kenya/South Africa/Germany/Netherlands/France/Norway/Lebanon, 2018, 83 mins
Fresh from its triumphant Cannes premiere, Rafiki is a must-see film that delivers a beautifully acted, nuanced portrayal of being queer in Nairobi. This vibrant romance follows the burgeoning relationship between Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), the playful Beyoncé wannabe who lives in the city’s affluent Skyview Towers, and Kena (Samantha Mugatsia), the shy, responsible tomboy who hangs out on the overcrowded Slopes estate with the local Boda Boda (motorcycle taxi) boys. The film’s delicious pink-hued color palette is part of the African film aesthetic known as the Afrobubblegum movement, and sets the joyous tone for this rare look at first love between two women in Kenya.
Originally banned in its home country of Kenya for its positive depiction of two young women in love, Rafiki is a global call to action that proves a work of art does not have to be explicit in order to stir resistance in the face of oppression.
Dir. T Cooper, USA, 2018, 98 mins
From surgeries and T parties to the struggles and joys of transitioning, follow four men as they prepare for Trans FitCon, the only bodybuilding competition exclusively for trans men. Glimpse the intimate relationships between these men and their partners, families, and children as they train throughout the year. This powerful documentary from director T Cooper and executive producer Tea Leoni culminates in a triumphant gesture of acceptance and an understanding of the shared struggles among them as they take the stage and embody their true selves.
Dir. Alvaro Delgado Aparicio, Peru/Germany/Norway, 2018, 95 mins As his name suggests, 14 year-old Segundo Paucar (Junior Behar) is his father Noé’s (Amiel Cayo) most devoted apprentice. Together, they craft intricate storyboxes—consisting of a cabinet, hand-painted figurines, and a lot of heart — for Peruvian families. Upon discovering his father with another man, Segundo struggles to accept his father’s delicate touch and its beautiful by-products. With this award-winning debut feature, Alvaro Delgado Aparicio emphasizes his devotion to the touching and fraught power structure that afflicts fathers and sons. In Retablo, patience in art and relationships might be tragically condemned by society, yet they are fiercely rewarded by family.
The NewFest jury stated, "For its immersive look into a world rarely seen on-screen, and brought to life by vivid performances and stunningly captivating cinematography, director Alvaro Delgado Aparicio tells an incredible story about coming to terms with the beguiling and sometimes brutal nature of the world as you come into it."
Dir. Daniel Laabs, USA, 2018, 85 mins
In present-day Texas, Maya (Tallie Medel) and her on-again, off-again girlfriend Jules (Betsy Holt) total their car after a night of backwoods raving and teen mischief. They’re rescued from the wreckage by Freddy (Robert Longstreet), a divorced oil worker whose stoic facade crumbles as he comes to see himself and his repressed desires in Maya. As Jules recovers, Maya and Freddy develop a rapport that dulls the debilitating silence of their small-town lives. Together, they subtly encourage one another to chase after what they want the most (or at least figure out what that might be).
Jules of Light and Dark is an iridescent coming-of-age story boasting the rural isolation of Deb Shoval’s AWOL and the wanderlust of Andrea Arnold’s American Honey. Defined by earnest, full performances and a blue palette, Daniel Laabs’s first feature solidly articulates the universality of queer loneliness and uncertainty across genders and generations.
The NewFest jury stated, "A subtle, moving examination of queer desire that encompasses everything from the tender to the awkward to the unrequited. Bolstering the story is stunning cinematography that evokes the textures of living and loving in the south. The U.S. Narrative Features Jury would like to award Daniel Laabs’s Jules of Light and Dark with the Grand Jury Prize."
Dir. Kiko Goifman and Claudia Priscila, Brazil, 2018, 75 mins
Black Brazilian transgender singer Linn da Quebrada weaponizes the trans body and music for political protest. Linn and childhood friend Jup do Bairro use extravagantly costumed music performances to dazzle audiences while opposing their country’s white heteronormative order. Figuring her embodied existence as resistance, Linn eschews the role of cis woman, choosing a fluid gender identity instead. Full of funny and intimate moments, the film advocates for personal choice against a society that imposes static gender identity.
Six people from Nairobi share their candid reality of what it’s like to live as a targeted gender minority in a region known for the prejudice and discrimination against its LGBTI population. When his family tries to kill him, Sidney, who is intersex, flees to Nairobi, where he befriends an underground community. Documentarian Tristan Aichitson discovered this network of trans and intersex people fighting to survive on the edge of Kenyan society and spent three years capturing their voices in interviews. These are their stories.
The NewFest jury stated, "We chose Sidney & Friends for the Grand Jury Prize because beyond shining a spotlight on intersex and trans stories as told by intersex and trans people (which is refreshing and so needed), the film feels less like a traditional viewing experience and more like an immersion into each subject's life. In watching the film, the viewer truly feels connected to Sidney and his friends — and honestly, we finished the film wanting to be friends with Sidney, Ben, and Maria. It's a heartfelt and emotional documentary that I know I'll be thinking about for years to come."
A homeless man (Alexander Horner) survives in New York by having sex with men he meets on Grindr. Longing for a better life but also intimacy, he becomes a hustler and falls in love with one of his clients (Thomas Jay Ryan, Henry Fool). Gorgeously shot and displaying intimate moments that are at once passionate and melancholic, Daddy explores themes of poverty, sex as currency, and what it is to be human. Jonah Greenstein’s feature debut paints a portrait of gay New York City through the lens of a young man and his encounters.
Drafted during apartheid by the South African Army, Johan finds that his love for Boy George and Depeche Mode lands him a spot in the Kanaries — the military’s traveling choir — but romance on the battlefield forces him to reckon with his long-repressed sexual identity. Examining the effects of nationalism on the soul, while also exploring the tender brotherhood among misfits, this musical comedy revels in the discovery of finding your voice and learning to fly.