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NewFest to Feature All-Trans Reading of Brokeback Mountain

NewFest to Feature All-Trans Reading of Brokeback Mountain

Leo Sheng Jen Richards Alexandra Grey Brian Michael Smith

The event will be livestreamed free October 18, with donations suggested to benefit NewFest and the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

From left: stars Leo Sheng, Jen Richards, Alexandra Grey, and Brian Michael Smith.

A livestreamed reading of Brokeback Mountain featuring an all-star transgender cast has been added NewFest's New York LGBTQ Film Festival, which is going virtual this year.

Those playing the lead roles in the script of the beloved 2005 film are Leo Sheng (The L Word) as Ennis, Brian Michael Smith (911: Lone Star) as Jack, Jen Richards (Tales of the City) as Alma, Alexandra Grey (Empire) as Lurleen, and Sam Feder (director of Disclosure) as the narrator. Others in the cast include Mal Blum, Mars Dixon, Theo Germaine, Jordan Gonzalez, Drew Gregory, Vico Ortiz, and Jes Tom.

The event will take place October 18 at 6 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Pacific and will be available to stream for free, although donations are suggested. Go here to reserve tickets and get a streaming link; it will also be available to watch on NewFest's Facebook and YouTube channels, and will be cross-posted by The Advocate.

Funds raised will be split between the NewFest Future Fund, to benefit NewFest and its programs for LGBTQ+ youth, filmmaker resources, and year-round screening programs, and the New York City Anti-Violence Project, currently observing its 40th anniversary. The Anti-Violence Project empowers LGBTQ+ and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education, and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy.

Brokeback Mountain tells the story of two young men, a ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy, who meet and fall in love in the summer of 1963, and form a lifelong but complicated connection. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal starred in the film, which was directed by Ang Lee from a screenplay by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, based on a short story by Annie Proulx. Lee and the screenwriters won Academy Awards.

The event is being produced in collaboration with #MakeItGay live reads, founded by Gaby Dunn during quarantine to reimagine typically white, straight, cisgender, and male films by using diverse casts of various queer people. The organization has produced an all-queer version of The Breakfast Club with an all-black cast, a bisexual female-led Ocean's Eleven, and a reading of Clue, even gayer than the original. Dunn's producing partner in the project is Karl Saint Lucy.

"Taking NewFest virtual this year has had unexpected silver linings, including allowing audiences throughout the U.S. to participate," NewFest Executive Director David Hatkoff and Director of Programming Nick McCarthy said in a press release. "We wanted to supplement our 120+ LGBTQ films in the festival with special events, and this opportunity to queer a queer classic like Brokeback Mountain by featuring an all-trans cast felt like an ideal and completely on-mission addition to the lineup. We're thrilled to partner with Gaby and Karl and this absolutely incredible group of trans talent to reveal a different side of this beloved work."

"For NewFest, we've chosen to look back for the 15-year anniversary of Brokeback Mountain, a very white, cis, and very masculine film, and redo it with an all-trans cast," added Dunn and Saint Lucy. "Every single one of these actors, such as our stars Brian Michael Smith, Leo Sheng, Alexandra Grey, and Jen Richards, is immensely talented, and they deserve to be the leads in many future Oscar baits to come."

The 32nd edition of the New York LGBTQ Film Festival will take place October 16-27, with the majority of the 120+ new films accessible online to ticket holders nationwide. The first-ever virtual edition of NewFest will include a robust lineup of panels and conversations surrounding LGBTQ+ topics, in addition to its regular programming of new features and short film premieres, and will incorporate virtual live events as well as select drive-in screenings. Besides the Brokeback Mountain event, more panels and conversations will be announced in the next few weeks. For more information, visit

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