Film still from documentary feature “All We’ve Got.” Image courtesy of NewFest.

October 23-29, 2019
VA Theatre – 333 W 23rd St.
Cinépolis – Chelsea 260 W 23rd St.
The LGBT Community Center – 208 W 13th St.

New York’s LGBTQ film festival kicked off its week-long celebration dedicated to representing women, men, and non-binary people in the LGBTQ community through film and media projects on October 23rd. The festivities began with a gala and opening party, and films start premiering on Thursday October 24th, 2019 until the 28th, with a closing celebration and a couple of encore presentations on the 29th. One hundred sixty films will run throughout the week, including documentaries, series, narratives, and shorts. This year, 32 different countries are represented, so attendees can expect to get a wide range of perspectives from the films shown. The festival aims to support all facets of queer storytelling by highlighting the diversity present, but not always visible, in our daily lives.

NewFest Executive Director David Hatkoff stated in an interview that the goal of the festival is to provide a positive space for the LGBTQ community and allies to come together and connect. Hatkoff mentioned, “NewFest was founded in 1988 at the height of the AIDS crisis, so it was born out of necessity. The community desperately needed positive representation at a time when people were losing their lives at an alarming rate.” The festival has evolved over the years to reflect the evolution of the LGBTQ community. The festival is still considered an essential part of the year because it fosters connection and conversation over similarities and differences. Everyone in this country, and especially a large city like New York, is more isolated than ever because of a growing attachment to screens. Sharing stories through film is a way of giving representation to those who are often ignored or shamed by society, but it’s also a way of creating meaningful connections.

Film still from episodic “Femme Queen Chronicles.” Image courtesy of NewFest.

Those who are usually underrepresented, such as people of color, differently-abled, and trans people, get their chance to shine in the spotlight throughout the festival. Nick McCarthy, Director of Programming & Operations, said in an interview that this week is an incubator for talent within the queer community. It’s empowering for the industry and the talent within it to learn from each other, no matter their background. McCarthy has said “It’s vital to amplify queer stories from a variety of genres in the face of oppression. Film always finds a way to shine a light in the darkest times, and we salute both the established and emerging filmmakers.”

Film still from documentary feature “Drag Kids.” Image courtesy of NewFest.

Those in charge of the festival feel responsible for shining a light on what’s happening around the world, which can be a dark and unforgiving place. There’s an abundance of joy present in the community that the public needs to be aware of as well. Lesbians, gays, transgender folks, and everyone else want to see happy endings, knowing they deserve them. With almost 1,000 different films to choose from, it’s no easy task to decide which movies the NewFest audience gets to see. The screening committee not only wants to make sure films from a wide variety of genres get represented but also wants to honor the many different forms of identity that take place in New York City. The main concern is finding stories that will connect with the New York audience.

The festival makes sure to include perspectives from international directors and people from unusual spaces. Director Viatcheslav Kopturevskiy’s “Siberia & Him” makes its world premiere at the festival, showing two men fall in love in a remote area of an already desolate place: Siberia, Russia. Director Alexis Clements heads to locations off the beaten track throughout America in search of queer spaces for women in her documentary “All We’ve Got.” Viewers can take away the message that LGBTQ communities exist everywhere, even in unexpected places. The broader scope of society may not always welcome the people within these communities, but shedding light on their existence in a public way reduces the stigma surrounding them, giving them the chance to become accepted and loved for who they are without fear.

Film still from narrative feature “Siberia and Him.” Image courtesy of NewFest.

These films are a way of telling stories as a form of resistance. Mainstream media tells stories with an often sexist, ageist, ableist, homophobic, and transphobic perspective. While one festival certainly can’t change the power dynamic within a highly oppressive industry, giving power to stories that those in positions of power typically ignore is a huge step in the right direction.

Each film is a way of showing the world the diversity, creativity, and unique aspects of queer spaces. Clements mentioned in an interview there’s no one-size-fits-all model for queer communities. “Many queer women and trans people have always gathered in people’s homes and in spaces that aren’t specifically queer. So community is not always visible in the ways we expect or that the culture leads us to believe,” Clements stated. She went on to say that “creating a successfully cross-class and cross-race, not to mention cross-identity, space for queer women and/or trans people is an incredibly difficult thing to pull of and it is not something I have frequently witnessed, if ever.” There are so many different realities and unique sets of desires people have when seeking community. This festival hopes to highlight as many of those differences as possible to spark compelling conversations.

NewFest has year-round screenings, programs, and events, but the festival is the centerpiece of the year. Hatkoff and McCarthy are hoping audiences will walk away wanting to see more, and demanding more. We’re no longer in the midst of the AIDS crisis, but we’re certainly in a different kind of moment of urgency and need to survive. NewFest allows us to learn, value each other, and make connections.

Tickets for the festival are on sale now on their website. NewFest will end with Rodrigo Bellott’s “Tu Me Manques” on October 29th. A full schedule of events and screenings can be found here.

Film still from closing night feature “Tu Me Manques.” Image courtesy of NewFest.

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