Don’t miss NewFest: The 30th Annual New York LGBT Film Festival. Tonight is opening night and includes a screening of the acclaimed AIDS drama 1985, a Q&A with its director and cast, and a party. The festival runs through October 30, and its centerpiece films include Boy Erased, Rafiki, and Mapplethorpe. Making Montgomery Clift, a documentary on the Hollywood icon, closes the festival. Learn more at NewFest.org. See a trailer for the event below, as well as a selection of The Advocate's favorite films from the festival.
Still and descriptions courtesy of NewFest.
During the early AIDS crisis, Adrian (Gotham's Cory Michael Smith) returns to his Texas hometown for Christmas, keeping quiet about his sexuality and HIV status. Award-winning writer-director and NewFest alum Yen Tan (Pit Stop) delivers a poignant period piece about a gay man tying up loose ends — whether it’s with his conservative parents (Academy Award nominee Virginia Madsen and Emmy Award winner Michael Chiklis), a high school ex-girlfriend (Jamie Chung), or his younger brother (Bosch's Aidan Langford), who shows an interest in Madonna and may be following in Adrian’s footsteps.
In the Finnish countryside, Leevi, who is home from studying abroad to help his father renovate their lakeside house, encounters Tareq, a Syrian asylum seeker they hire as a handyman. Leevi’s father returns to town on business as tension builds between the two young men, and they give in to their mutual attraction. One of the first LGBTQ-themed films made in Finland, Mikko Makela’s intimate drama places at its center the freedom and acceptance of sexual and ethnic minorities amid the backdrop of the breathtaking Finnish landscape.
Set in the uber-conservative suburbs of Arkansas, this grippingly vital drama stars Academy Award-nominee Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Ladybird) as a young gay man sent to Refuge, a church-run conversion therapy program that aims to “cure” homosexuality, upon the insistence of his Baptist preacher father (Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe) and religious-yet-conflicted mother (Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman). Based on the memoir by Garrard Conley and adapted for the screen by director and featured actor Joel Edgerton, this urgent drama stirs a challenging yet compassionate portrait of a family — and perhaps country — at odds with its differing ideas of empathy and identity.
In addition to powerhouse performances by Hedges, Kidman, and Crowe, the ensemble includes stellar supporting turns from multitalented queer artists Troye Sivan, Xavier Dolan, and Cherry Jones. Boy Erased is at once an evocative coming-of-age story about finding your voice, and a compelling tale of personal survival and family reconciliation in the face of ignorance.
This fascinating documentary captures the unique community of Cherry Grove, Fire Island, from its early days as a center for drag culture to the present day, featuring interviews with residents and old-timers, and captivating new and archival footage. Starting in the 1950s, Cherry Grove provided gays, including the likes of Tennessee Williams, with a safe space to express themselves at a time when interactions between people of the same sex were often the target of police raids. Michael Fisher’s oral history navigates the rich history and unknown stories of this vibrant beachfront community.
A homeless man (Alexander Horner) survives in New York by sleeping 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.
One of the most glaring omissions in the film canon has been the work of queer women. Thankfully, this once-hidden population picked up the camera and transformed the visibility of lesbians in cinema through classics such as Go Fish (1994), The Watermelon Woman (1996), High Art (1998), all of which premiered in New York at NewFest. Pioneering filmmakers Barbara Hammer, Su Friedrich, Rose Troche, Yoruba Richen, Desiree Akhavan, Vicky Du, Cheryl Dunye, critic B. Ruby Rich, Jenni Olson, and others discuss with humor and depth how they’ve expressed their queer identity through film, while also revealing personal stories from their own experiences of looking for themselves on screen. First-time director Caroline Berler expertly balances films clips with candid interviews, making Dykes, Camera, Action! a joyous response to the days of the celluloid closet, culminating in a groundbreaking celebration of empowerment and visibility for the ages.
Playwright Terrence McNally has redefined contemporary gay theater with an extraordinary body of work that includes The Ritz, Corpus Christi, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, and Love! Valour! Compassion!, to name just a few. But his life offstage has been just as fascinating, encompassing activism, addiction, romance, and the constant pursuit of artistic excellence. McNally shares his story onscreen with the help of friends and colleagues like Angela Lansbury, Rita Moreno, Nathan Lane, F. Murray Abraham, and many more, as captured by documentarian and NewFest alum Jeff Kaufman (The State of Marriage).
In her debut feature, director Joanne Mony Park delivers a sensitively-drawn portrait of Hana (Joony Kim) a young woman caught between two worlds; the expectations of her Korean family, and her own needs and desires as a university student and model discovering her queer identity. The film’s quiet attention to detail captures charming moments of self-reflection and attraction, as Hana falls for Nico (Cris Gris), a charismatic Latina who lives without the self-consciousness that holds Hana back. The chemistry between these two leads captivates the viewer and heralds the discovery of a bold and exciting new directorial voice to watch.
Online, Pedro smears neon paint across his body for pay-per-view voyeurs hungry for his webcam erotica. In real life, he rarely sees the sun or speaks to another soul in Porto Alegre. After catching word of a rival ripping off his rainbow-colored act, he ventures from the shadows to settle their score — but finds an unlikely new friend in the process. This Berlinale Teddy Award winner conjures a dark, sensual atmosphere of alienation and discovery.
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.
Flaunting lewks and flouting conventional taste, this deliriously campy romp dashes through slasher tropes with deadly Brooklyn attitude and a distinctively queer spirit. Following a traumatic experience at “Brooklyn’s Annual Enema Party,” party boy Danny is haunted by a hunky masked stranger who causes a massacre of Brooklyn nightlife. Featuring a bevy of Brooklyn’s biggest drag divas, including Bushwig co-founder Horrorchata, this crass creation of cult fervor is John Waters meets John Carpenter. And watch out — these queens aren’t the only ones who came to slay.
A Cannes 2018 Official Selection, this steamy and seedy ode to cinema and postured pulp comes from visionary director and NewFest alum Yann Gonzalez (You and the Night). Vanessa Paradis stars as a no-nonsense gay porn producer on films with titles such as Homicide and Anal Fury, who’s befuddled by a crush on her editor (Kate Moran) and the fact that her cast and crew are being knocked off one-by-one by a leather-clad madman. Shot on lush 35mm and featuring a pulsating original score from M83, Knife + Heart is a gloriously and gorgeously gory take on the modern slasher flick set in the world of '70s Paris. Celluloid lovers unite — the giallo subgenre has finally gone full-blown queer.
The iconic Hollywood actor Montgomery Clift — described in many accounts as “tragically self-destructive” and “tormented” by his sexuality — is brought to new light by his nephew Robert Clift, who uncovers never-before-seen footage and exclusive audio interviews collected by the filmmaker’s father. The viewer gains insight into a fresh portrait of the legendary actor who was unashamed of his sexuality, maintained a great sense of humor, and even defied the studio system. Robert’s access to interviews with family and close friends of Monty turns against the faulty narrative made popular by previous biographies and documentaries that considered him “the slowest suicide in Hollywood history.”
Thoroughly well-researched and edited, Robert — along with co-director Hillary Demmon — brings to the surface a personal account of his uncle Monty and his father, Brooks Clift, that forces us to ask: Why was so much of Monty’s story left out? How were previous accounts so wrong? Who do we trust to write our history? Making Montgomery Clift brings the star out of the archive, and further out of the closet.
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, family, 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.
Channeling the sensitive yet galvanizing spirit of the New York icon, Emmy-nominee Matt Smith (Doctor Who, The Crown) stars as renegade queer artist and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Set in the gay leather communities and highbrow galleries of New York City in the '70s and '80s, Ondi Timoner’s biopic is an unflinching take on the life and career of the icon made famous for his striking black-and-white BDSM images of phalluses and flowers. Shedding light and dark on a time that both energized and devastated the art world in New York City, the film follows Mapplethorpe from the Chelsea Hotel to Bond Street as he develops his distinct style.
Mapplethorpe is an electrifying and chronological look at the influences and practices that captured male homoerotic desire so poignantly in the face of the devastating toll of the AIDS crisis.
Mario, a German soccer player, faces a harrowing decision when he must choose between pursuing his career on the field or his forbidden love for Leon, his roommate and a new player on the team. As rumors unfold in the locker room and spread to higher ranks, Mario attempts to deny them, and asks his girlfriend Jenny to pretend they are together. The torment caused by this macho world is reflected in Mario’s mother, who, in one memorable scene, refuses to be photographed during a magazine photo shoot with Jenny and her son, her eyes consumed with anguish.
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.
Martin Clement is about to give the performance of his life: his life story, that is, in an autobiographical stage play. As a child, young Marvin Bijoux was bullied by homophobic classmates at school and misunderstood by his often neglectful parents, making him feel like a lonely outsider in his small rural French village. But when a kind school principal guides him to join the drama club, Marvin discovers his gifts for play-acting the misery that surrounds him. When he qualifies to attend a theatrical school, Marvin acts the role of the brash straight stud until he meets an older mentor who encourages him to acknowledge his sexuality and to exorcize his pain by putting it all on the stage.
This sweeping drama from director and co-writer Anne Fontaine (The Innocents, Coco Before Chanel) captures a life in the theater, as we see timid young Marvin (Jules Porier) blossom into adult Martin (Finnegan Oldfield, Nocturama) — with a little help along the way from Isabelle Huppert, playing herself. Fontaine masterfully spins a powerful yet subtly heartbreaking tale that reminds us that no matter how far we get from our upbringing, a piece of it remains with us always.
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.
A visually arresting debut from director Tchaiko Omawale, this dark and dangerous coming-of-age tale tackles themes of mental wellness while exploring the confusion of an adolescent crush. Recently orphaned teen Sole (Hope Olaide Wilson) is sent to live with her estranged relatives. Quickly becoming infatuated with the rebellious girl next door, Sole falls in with a crowd of queer misfits who light up her dark days. Emmy-winner Lynn Whitfield delivers a satisfying turn as a deeply hypocritical grandmother, and emerging artist Syd (of R&B group The Internet) will satisfy those with their finger on the pulse of music from the margins.