15th Anniversary New York Queer Fest Brings Name Change and A "Mambo" Opener
by Eugene Hernandez
The U.S. premiere of Emile Gaudreault's "Mambo Italiano" will open the 15th anniversary of NewFest, New York's Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, on June 5th. The comedy, dubbed the gay "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" by the festival, is adapted from a play by Steve Galluccio exploring the "subtleties and complexities of a quintessential Italian family straddling the cultures, traditions and mores of the old and new worlds."
In all, NewFest, formerly the New Festival, will host 63 feature films and 128 shorts from 27 countries including five world premieres, 17 U.S. premieres and 30 NYC premieres. The festival chose its 15th anniversary edition to simplify its name. "The festival is 15 years old, and we thought the former name sounded too generic," commented Basil Tsiokos, the director of the event in a conversation with indieWIRE. "We wanted a name that was quick and easy." Tsiokos worked with the event during its 10th anniversary as an intern, and looks forward to this year's decade-and-a-half landmark, "It's gratifying to get the festival through another milestone year, and this year's line up includes plenty of fun films and interesting docs which represent a diverse cross section of LGBT media and content."
The slate includes films co-presented once again with the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival and the New York International Latino Film Festival. For the first time this year, NewFest will feature joint programs with the Tribeca Film Festival including films which screened at the recently concluded Lower Manhattan festival, such as "The Gift" by Louise Hogarth and "Flying with One Wing" by Sri Lankan, Asoka Handagama. "It's great to work with Tribeca and to have the opportunity to reach out to its base," commented Tsiokos.
New Fest will also spotlight four themed areas including such basic themes as Camp and Gender Outlaws as well as unique areas of gaydom like Homosexuality in the Middle East. Berlin 2003 feature "Yossi and Jagger" by Eytan Fox will screen in the latter section. Based on a true story, the Israeli film tells the story of a love affair between two men in the Israeli army. Screening in the fest's focus on Politics section is 2003 SXSW competition award-winner "Flag Wars" by Linda Goode. The doc is an account of a mostly African-American working class Columbus, OH neighborhood confronted with gentrification by affluent white gay men and lesbians. Norwegian doc "All About My Father," which screened in Berlin last year, will make its NYC premiere at NewFest. The film, by Even Benestad, captures the director's view of his father's journey into transgenderism, and the impact it has on his career as a small town doctor and his family.
Closing NewFest is French film "Merci Docteur Rey," the directorial debut of New York-born Andrew Litvack. Starring Dianne Wiest, the film follows the gay son of an opera diva whose life is thrown into upheaval after he witnesses a murder.
Screening venues include the New School's Tishman Auditorium and New York University's Cantor Film Center.