Film still from documentary feature “Queen of Lapa.” Image courtesy of NewFest.

NewFest, New York’s LGBTQ film festival, announced the winners of their audience awards, as well as juried narrative, documentary, and short film awards. This year was the 31st edition of the festival and took place from October 23rd-29th. NewFest Executive Director David Hatkoff and Director of Programming Nick McCarthy announced the winners on Tuesday.

Jurors consisted of film critics, filmmakers, directors, and journalists. Different jurors were selected for narrative features, documentaries, and short films to ensure fairness. Each audience was handed a ballot upon entry that they could use to vote after the film. Audience votes were completely anonymous and tallied by random volunteers after the premier of each film.

“Temblores,” directed by Jayro Bustamante, took home the Grand Jury Prize for best narrative feature. The juror statement applauded the film for its authentic and realistic depiction of a contemporary conservative society. “Temblores” follows the life of a Christian man named Pablo, whose life begins to unravel when he falls in love with another man. Pablo is forced by his wife and the church to suppress his “sinful” feelings with intrusive therapy. The film highlights the hypocrisy of intolerance present in many religions, and portrays the psychological damage done to those who don’t fit the mold that their community expects them to.

Film still from narrative feature “Temblores.” Image courtesy of NewFest.

Audiences, on the other hand, thought “And Then We Danced” was the most enjoyable narrative feature. This film tells the story of a man who’s been training to be a dancer and slowly develops feelings for his rival, Irakli. It was Sweden’s submission to the International Feature Film category of the 92nd Academy Awards.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for documentary feature was “Queen of Lapa,” a beautiful, immersive story of a transgender cabaret performer in Brazil. Luana Muniz, Brazil’s most famous transgender woman and a sex worker since she was only 11 years old, worked tirelessly to create a safe working environment for transgender girls in her hostel in Lapa, a neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. The documentary shows the political climate of Brazil, as well as the day-to-day lives of underprivileged young women who have made meaningful relationships with other trans women while engaging in a highly controversial profession.

Lastly, Ponyboi took home the Grand Prize for best short film. According to the jury statement, it was “a compelling, nuanced performance that left the jury feeling excited by its filmmakers, River Gallo and Sade Clacken Joseph.” Ponyboi tells the story of how an intersex young man discovers self-redemption and love in the United States.

Film still from the short film “Ponyboi.” Image courtesy of NewFest.

Audiences appreciated Cody Stickels’ documentary “A Night at Switch n’ Play,” which profiles the Brooklyn drag performance group of the same name. The film doesn’t shy away from the problems facing queer nightlife performers, including body shame, social rejection, and struggles with gender identity. Narrative short “Wonder” also took home an audience award. It’s a powerful story of a young boy who becomes fearful of his gender when he begins to dream of dressing up as Wonder Woman for Halloween.

This year’s edition of NewFest was a success, as it showed powerful films that hadn’t been shown to a New York audience before. All those involved are already looking forward to next year.

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