NewFest — the New York LGBTQ+ film and media organization — is days away from the 33rd edition of its film festival. And for the record, their lineup is good. Real good.
The hybrid fest kicks off on October 15 and continues through October 26. The opening night film will be the East Coast premiere of Jesse Moss’ (Boys State) Amazon docu Mayor Pete, which spotlights history-making Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg.
NewFest will close with NEON’s award-winning film Flee, directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen and produced by actors Riz Ahmed and Nikolai Coster-Waldau, which took home the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year. Recounted mostly through animation to director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Flee tells for the first time the story of Amin Nawabi’s extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan, and the painful secret he has kept hidden for 20 years.
For those on the East Coast, the festival’s in-person premieres will take place at The SVA Theatre and The LGBT Community Center in Manhattan, as well as in Brooklyn for the first time at Nitehawk Prospect Park and The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). And don’t forget — we’re still in a pandemic, but NewFest is keeping all attendees safe, complying with current New York city guidelines, which require proof of vaccination for all staff, audiences, and filmmakers to enter a venue.
“The LGBTQ+ community thrives on connection, and queer film provides an opportunity to connect in a unique and celebratory way,” said Executive Director David Hatkoff. “We have created a dynamic 12-day event that will deliver our community and allies a much-needed jolt of beauty, humanity and emotion. Our hope is that audiences who join us safely in-person in Manhattan and Brooklyn or at home from anywhere in the United States will be moved and inspired by these incredible films, and feel a part of something bigger than themselves.”
“From New York City during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance to the countryside of contemporary South Korea, this year‘s slate spans across decades and nations to highlight that everyone in our community has a story to tell, and the queer experience is not a monolith,” said Director of Programming Nick McCarthy. “Amongst the 130+ bold and beautiful projects featured in this year’s line-up, we’re particularly excited to amplify feature-length films that center intersex, Two-spirit indigenous, and non-binary protagonists, as well as show support for our LGBTQ+ siblings seeking refuge in award-winners such as MIGUEL’S WAR and our Closing Night Film, FLEE, as we come together through storytelling to find connection and understanding as a community.”
The full program for the festival’s 33rd edition includes more than 130 films, including 30 narrative features, 14 documentary features, one global episodic showcase, and 11 shorts program screenings.
The stats for this year’s impressive lineup include 58% of films directed by Women, Non-Binary, and Two-Spirit Filmmakers, and 68% of the line-up is by and about underrepresented voices in the queer community (Women, People of Color, Trans, Non-Binary, Indigenous, Bi and Disabled).
The fest will also include a New York Centerpiece Screening for Rebecca Hall’s Passing, starring Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, and Alexander Skarsgård. Based on the book by Nella Larsen, the period drama follows two black women who can pass as white and choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York.
For its legacy screening selection this year, NewFest will host Oscilloscope Laboratories’ World Premiere of the 4K restoration for John Cameron Mitchell’s cult classic erotic film Shortbus, to celebrate the film’s 15th anniversary, which follows a group of New Yorkers caught up in their romantic-sexual milieu who converge at an underground salon infamous for its blend of art, music, politics, and carnality. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Dee Rees’ iconic film Pariah, the festival will host a special screening of the film, which follows a Brooklyn teenager who juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression.
Additionally, the festival will host a “Madge Brunch” to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Madonna-focused documentary Truth Or Dare, which chronicles the superstar during her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour.
The festival will be announcing more special events and panel programming in the coming weeks. All-access virtual and in-person passes are on sale now at www.newfest.org.
The full 2021 lineup selections are as follows:
OPENING NIGHT: Friday, October 15th at 8PM (SVA Theater)
MAYOR PETE, directed by Jesse Moss. (USA)
A riveting and intimate documentary about Pete Buttegieg’s campaign to be the youngest, and first openly gay, U.S. president. East Coast Premiere.
CLOSING NIGHT: Saturday, October 24th at 8PM (SVA Theater)
FLEE, directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen. (USA)
FLEE tells the story of Amin Nawabi as he grapples with a painful secret he has kept hidden for 20 years, one that threatens to derail the life he has built for himself and his soon to be husband. Recounted mostly through animation to director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, he tells for the first time the story of his extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.
LEGACY SCREENING: 15TH ANNIVERSARY
SHORTBUS, directed by John Cameron Mitchell. (USA).
John Cameron Mitchell’s exuberant exploration of life, sex and happiness in NYC still shines fifteen years later in this 4K restoration. World Premiere of 4K Restoration
LEGACY SCREENING: 10TH ANNIVERSARY
PARIAH, directed by Dee Rees. (USA)
A decade since its release, Academy Award nominee Dee Rees’ debut feature remains an enduring exploration of a Black, queer 17-year-old.
MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE, directed by Alek Keshishian. (USA)
Celebrate the 30th anniversary of this rare behind-the-scenes look at Madonna during the 1990 international tour for “Blonde Ambition” at our Madge Brunch
NEW YORK CENTERPIECE SCREENING
PASSING, directed by Rebecca Hall. (USA)
Based on the novel by Nella Larsen, the movie follows two black women (Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga) who can pass as white and choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York.
U.S. CENTERPIECE SCREENING
POTATO DREAMS OF AMERICA, directed by Wes Hurley. (USA)
A Hollywood-obsessed mother and her gay son move from 1980s USSR to the United States. New York Premiere.
DOCUMENTARY CENTERPIECE SCREENING
INVISIBLE: GAY WOMEN IN SOUTHERN MUSIC, directed by T.J. Parsell. (USA)
Growing up gay in the South is hard enough, but to be an openly gay woman in country music is nearly impossible. Nashville is a man’s town, yet this group of gay women have persevered anyhow – making an indelible impact on country and southern music. This film explores their deeply personal journeys while taking a piercing look at family, religion and the patriarchy of country music. New York Premiere.
INTERNATIONAL CENTERPIECE SCREENING
A DISTANT PLACE, directed by Park Kun-Young. (SOUTH KOREA)
A rural sheep farmer’s quiet life in South Korea is disrupted by surprise visits from his lover and twin sister. New York Premiere.
ALL BOYS AREN’T BLUE, directed by Nathan Hale Williams. (USA)
A poetic visual representation of George Matthew Johnson’s memoir about growing up Black and non-binary. New York Premiere.
BLISS, directed by Henrika Kull. (GERMANY)
Two sex workers fall in love while working at a Berlin brothel in a candid drama of unparalleled intensity. New York Premiere.
BOY MEETS BOY, directed by Daniel Sánchez López. (GERMANY)
Two young men share a brief yet joyous romantic encounter in modern-day Berlin. NewFest Pride Encore.
CELTS, directed by Milica Tomović. (SERBIA)
In 1990 Serbia a group of friends and couples misbehave at a child’s birthday party, airing out their grievances and indulging in hidden passions. New York Premiere.
CUT!, directed by Marc Ferrer. (SPAIN)
The director of a low-budget queer thriller tries to solve a violent murder mystery that threatens his set. North American Premiere.
DEATH AND BOWLING, directed by Lyle Kash. (USA)
A struggling trans actor goes on an adventure of self-discovery after the death of his close friend and captain of his all-trans bowling league. East Coast Premiere.
HOMEBODY, directed by Joseph Sackett. (USA)
A kid questioning their gender swaps bodies with a beloved babysitter, leading to a hilarious quest across NYC to get back to the way things were and imagine the way things could be. East Coast Premiere.
FIREBIRD, directed by Peeter Rebane. (ESTONIA)
A sumptuous romance between two Soviet Air Force recruits during the Cold War, based on true events. New York Premiere.
THE FIRST DEATH OF JOANA, directed by Cristiane Oliveira. (BRAZIL/FRANCE)
During a hot Brazilian summer, 13-year-old Joana uncovers hidden truths about her family and herself. New York Premiere.
FIRSTNESS, directed by Brielle Brilliant. (USA)
A non-binary child, their father, and a stranger form tenuous connections in this award-winning drama. New York Premiere.
JUMP, DARLING, directed by Phil Connell. (CANADA)
An aspiring performer rekindles a bond with their ailing grandmother (the late great Cloris Leachman) in this intimate dramedy. New York Premiere.
LEADING LADIES, directed by Ruth Caudeli. (COLOMBIA)
Ruth Caudeli (Second Star on the Right) returns to Inside Out with Leading Ladies, a reflection on how different perspectives and memories affect one group of queer women. New York Premiere.
LOVE, SPELLS AND ALL THAT, directed by Ümit Ünal. (TURKEY)
United by a twenty-year-old spell, two women journey through the neglected corners of their memories as they explore the island of Büyükada, Istanbul, in Love, Spells and All That.
METAMORPHOSIS, directed by J.E. Tiglao. (PHILIPPINES)
A sensitive and illuminating portrait of intersex identity. New York Premiere.
MY BEST PART, directed by Nicolas Maury. (FRANCE)
French superstar Nicolas Maury directs himself as an actor fleeing to his mother’s countryside home to recover from a break-up. New York Premiere.
THE NOVICE, directed by Lauren Hadaway. (USA)
A college freshman obsessively climbs the ranks of her school’s rowing team in this Tribeca award-winner.
POPPY FIELD, directed by Eugen Jebeleanu. (ROMANIA)
A closeted Romanian policeman tries to diffuse a protest at a queer film screening in this subversive thriller. New York Premiere.
THE SCARY OF SIXTY-FIRST, directed by Dasha Nekrasova. (USA)
After moving into their new Upper East Side apartment, two roommates’ lives are upended by the lingering impact of its infamous former owner.
SEE YOU THEN, directed by Mari Walker. (USA)
A decade after breaking up, college exes Kris and Naomi catch up on their complicated lives, loves, and Kris’ transition. NewFest Pride Encore.
THE SIXTH REEL, directed by Carl Andress & Charles Busch. (USA)
Hilarious hijinks ensue when a group of classic film collectors pursue a long-lost film in this homage to 1930s comedies starring Charles Busch. New York Premiere.
SWEETHEART, directed by Marley Morrison. (USA)
An angsty teenager realizes family vacation isn’t so bad when she meets her first crush in this hilarious feature. New York Premiere.
UNDER MY SKIN, directed by David O’Donnell. (USA/AUSTRALIA)
An uptight lawyer falls in love with a free-spirited musician, but dynamics shift when one of them begins to question their gender. New York Premiere.
AIDS DIVA: THE LEGEND OF CONNIE NORMAN, directed by Dante Alencastre. (USA)
As the self-appointed “AIDS DIVA” and ACT UP/LA spokesperson in early 90’s Los Angeles, Connie Norman stood proudly in her multiple, fluid and evolving LGBTQ identities. New York Premiere.
BEING BEBE, directed by Emily Branham. (USA/CAMEROON)
The world fell in love with BeBe Zahara Benet as the first-ever winner of RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE, and now the legendary queen has even more to say. New York Premiere (in-theater).
BEING THUNDER, directed by Stephanie Lamorre. (USA/FRANCE)
A Two-Spirit teenage dancer fights for inclusion at Powwows around New England and beyond. East Coast Premiere.
BRING DOWN THE WALLS, directed by Phil Collins. (USA/GERMANY)
An exuberant NYC community fights the U.S. prison system while dancing for liberation to classic house tracks. North American Premiere.
CAUGHT (CAER), directed by Nicola Mai. (UK/USA)
An innovative hybrid narrative-documentary about trans Latina sex workers in Queens, NY. New York Premiere.
DRAG INVASION, directed by Alberto Castro. (PERU)
The ultimate insider look at the queens of RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE and their Peruvian LGBTQ+ fans. U.S. Premiere.
MAKE ME FAMOUS, directed by Edward Brezinski. (USA)
An irresistible exploration of a little-known painter’s legacy and mysterious disappearance from the iconic 1980s downtown art scene in NYC. World Premiere.
MIGUEL’S WAR, directed by Eliane Raheb. (LEBANON/GERMANY/SPAIN)
For 37 years, Miguel has been living as an exiled gay in Spain and has become a successful conference interpreter. It is only now that he is willing to return to his native country Lebanon and confront his traumatic past, maybe he could finally find some emotional balance and love. U.S. Premiere.
RAW! UNCUT! VIDEO!, directed by Alex Clausen and Ryan A. White. (USA)
A XXX documentary about kink, safe sex, and the independent porn studio that championed them both at the height of the AIDS epidemic. New York Premiere.
REBEL DYKES, directed by Harri Shanahan, Siân A. Williams. (UK)
A rabble-rousing documentary set in 1980s post-punk London tells the unheralded story of a community of activist dykes. NewFest Pride Encore.
SEDIMENTS, directed by Adrián Silvestre. (SPAIN)
Six trans women travel to a rural town in Spain to explore the natural landscape and uncover their innermost selves. New York Premiere.
FREE SCREENING & CONVERSATION
THE LEGEND OF THE UNDERGROUND, directed by Giselle Baily and Nneka Onuorah. (USA/Nigeria)
A portrait of LGBTQIA+ folks in Nigeria today as seen through the lens of bold and charismatic, non-conformist youth who fight to live out loud. Presented by WarnerMedia.
BRIDESMAN, directed by Julian Buchan. (USA)
When Terry White is asked to be a bridesmaid in his childhood best friend’s wedding, he sees an opportunity: to reignite an old fling with the groom.
BOY CULTURE, directed by Q. Allan Brocka. (USA)
X is faced with new challenges working as an escort in 2021 like being up against a younger generation in this continuation of 2006 film BOY CULTURE.
THE EX CYCLE, directed by David J. Cork. (USA)
Exes Elliott and Mark have a deep conversation about their end of the relationship after they wind up in bed again in this episode of the anthology series about former couples gaining closure.
HETERO, directed by KJ Kieras, Bentley Eldridge. (USA)
Five misfit friends scramble to save their Gay Straight Alliance from an unsympathetic principal while facing the highs and lows of being queer in high school. World Premiere.
MS/MANAGE, directed by Caralene Robinson, Michael “Boogievision” Pinckney. (USA)
Skye has a successful career and wonderful partner, but is struggling with the challenges she faces as a Black person in corporate America as she prepares for a career-defining launch.
QUERENCIA, directed by Mary Galloway. (Canada)
A love story following aspiring professional dancer Teka and struggling musician Abe as they both explore their Indigiqueer identities.
YOUR EYES, directed by Angélica Di Paula and Julia Rufino. (Brazil)
Lia and Veronica as a couple in love who are challenged by trauma and navigating questions about gender identity in this series inspired by true events.
For the full list of all short films at NewFest, click here.
QUEER KID POWER
Inspirational and affirming shorts curated specifically for LGBTQ+ youth and teen audiences, presented in partnership with the NYC Department of Education
I KNOW WHAT BOYS LIKE
Eclectic stories of dudes and dilemmas showing just how fun (and messy!) finding the right connection can be.
Relationship drama, therapy in the back of a rideshare drama — you want it, lesbians will give it to you!
BEYOND THE BINARY
Dive into the gender-expansive world of trans filmmakers and their resonant stories.
A dark, campy, and downright bizarre short film program for the thrillseeker in you.
THE FUTURE IS QUEER
Travel through time, fly out into space, and awaken your imagination with stories of queer futurity.
ALWAYS A PLEASURE
Get immersed in the healing magic of queer sex, touch, and desire *Program contains sexually explicit material.
Queer stories about displacement, seeking refuge, and finding yourself in the process
These encounters might be brief but the promise of romance is in the air, so invite your crush and prepare to swoon together.
SENSE & SPIRITUALITY
Explore the unique bonds queer and trans people form with spirituality, religion and divinity.
WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND?
Sharing is caring and communication is key in these candid shorts.