Though Newfest, New York's LGBT film festival, obviously programs for a niche audience, in some ways the event, which opened Thursday night in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood with Jacqui Morris' "Mr. Right," is experiencing the same financial and staffing hurdles that many of its larger and more mainstream counterparts have had to face recently. The festival's longtime leader, Basil Tsiokos, left the organization after 12 years, and in the wake of a serious financial situation the event scaled back to eight nights from the traditional 11, with many staffers pitching in unpaid to get the job done.
"The schedule is shorter this year because of financial considerations," explained acting executive director Lesli Klainberg, a member of the board before taking on the role. "I did a panel this year with [other U.S. gay festival organizers] and we agreed to the premise that it isn't about whether we should have LGBT festivals or not, but how they will be able to exist and in what form given the issues of the economy."
"Like other non profits in the country, we have challenges with raising money and still being able to create a first rate event," Klainberg admitted.
While Tsiokos resigned as head of the organization late last year, Klainberg praised her predecessor for guiding her and the board during the transition and even paid tribute to him prior to introducing the opening film at the festival's new home venue at the SVA Theater on 23rd Street near 8th Avenue in the heart of New York's heavily gay Chelsea. She also saluted people who she said "stepped up" to the challenge the event faced financially by volunteering their time. She added that a bit of luck played a role in getting this year's festival off the ground.
"The board asked itself, 'should there be an LGBT festival in New York City', and we said 'yes,' and decided to bear down and make it the leanest, meanest festival we can..." From the lemons, Klainberg made the proverbial lemonade after she was informed that the festival's regular venue at the AMC Theaters on 34th Street would not be available for '09. "Hollywood has decided the summer season starts May 30, so necessity was the mother of invention here... I read an article about SVA Theaters [in Chelsea] and got in touch with Gene [Stavis, director of SVA Theaters] and he said he had always wanted the theater to be a home for Newfest..."
The change brought Newfest to a part of the city where its base is concentrated, something that has naturally thrilled organizers. Additionally, the festival will host mixers and panels at its Logo Lounge across the street from its two screens at SVA venue. This year's line up includes more than 100 features and shorts, down somewhat from its usual roster, said Klainberg - mostly a result of the festival's shortened schedule.
Newfest continues through June 11. For ticket information and a schedule, visit the revamped Newfest website.
The 2009 Newfest line up with descriptions provided by the festival:
Opening Night: "Mr. Right," directed byJacqui Morris, UK
Mr. Right merges London cool, metrosexual and gay style to create a savvy brew of urban queer cool.
Centerpiece: "The Rivers Wash Over Me," directed by John G Young, USA
Sequan, a gay teenager from NYC, is forced to live with his family in the South
Women's Night: "The Baby Formula," directed by Alison Reid, Canada
Lesbian parenthood gets the Best In Show treatment in a witty mockumentary about the quest to produce the biological offspring of two women. A pair of adventurous women agree to try an experimental procedure that creates sperm from their stem cells.
Closing Night: "Pop Star on Ice," directed by David Barba & James Pellerito, USA
A behind the scenes portrait of irreverent olympic figure skator and 3-time national champion Johnny Weir.
2009 Newfest narrative and documentary films and descriptions provided on page 2.
"Against a Trans Narrative," directed by Jules Rosskam, USA
A cross-genre, cross-racial, cross-generational look at trans-masculine communities and how they are regulated--both internally and externally.
"Anatomy," directed by Rhys Graham, Australia
Three unusual and compelling stories exploring how sexuality and the body work as driving forces in the creative process.
"black.womyn: conversations with lesbians of African descent," directed by tiona.m USA
'black.womyn' features candid interviews with black lesbian women discussing coming out, sexuality and religion, love and relationships, marriage, patriarchy, visibility in media, discrimination and honmophobia, acrtivismn, gender identity, Black lesbian.
"Campillo Yes, I Do," directed by Andres Rubio, Spain
A journey to the village which is Spain's gay wedding capital
"City of Borders," directed by Yun Suh, USA
The only gay bar in Jerusalem creates a community among Israelis and Palestinians.
"College Boys Live," directed by George O'Donnell USA
In an unassuming white house in the suburbs of Orlando, Florida, Zac Adams operates a gay voyeur website called "College Boys Live," in which young men enjoy free lodging in exchange for having their every move streamed live online for viewing by website members.
"Fig Trees," directed by John Greyson Canada
A Documentary opera about AIDS, pills, & Gertrude Stein.
"Florent: Queen of the Meat Market," directed by David Sigal, USA
Florent Morellet turned his namesake diner in New York's Meatpacking District into a hotbed of activism and entertainment.
"The Good American," directed by Jochen Hick, Germany
Meet Tom Weise, controversial co-founder of Rentboy.com and producer of the HustlaBall, and the family, friends, co-workers, partiers, and rentboys who live in his world. This insightful documentary profiles Tom, his home life, and his work in the sex industry, and follows his struggles.
"Gramercy Stories," directed by Joyce Chopra, USA
An inspiring look inside a unique residence in Manhattan that is providing a safe home for 25 gay and transgender teenagers who have experienced violence at home and on the streets.
"It Came From Kuchar," directed by Jennifer M. Kroot, USA
The hilarious and touching story of the legendary underground filmmaking twins, George & Mike Kuchar, and how their no-budget movies inspired generations of film-makers.
"Lady Trojans," directed by Elizabeth Hesik, USA
'Lady Trojans' is a feature documentary that explores teen sexuality, love, heartbreak, coming out and coming of age through the eyes of a lesbian high school basketball team in 1990s Tucson, AZ.
"The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club," directed by Amanda Pope, USA
Documentary about the extraordinary lifeand times of Florence "Pancho" Barnes, one of the top women pilots of the 20th century and an ill-behaved woman who made history.
"Off and Running: An American Coming-of-Age Story," directed by Nicole Opper, USA
Avery is an African American teenager and the adopted daughter of two Jewish lesbians. "Off and Running" explores the bonds of family and follows Avery's journey to uncover her roots.
"One Summer in New Paltz, A Cautionary Tale," directed by Nancy Nicol, Canada
A young major of a small village decides to do the unthinkable.
"A Place to Live: The Story of Triangle Square," directed by Carolyn Coal, USA
What does it mean to be a gay senior citizen trying to survive on limited resources in America? A Place to Live addresses this issue by chronicling the development and construction of Triangle Square Hollywood, the country's first affordable housing fa
"Prodigal Sons," directed by Kimberly Reed, USA
The multiple award-wining and unflinching family memoir of a sibling rivalry between a man and a woman... and Orson Welles. The filmmaker Kimberly Reed, who is also a trans woman and former co-captain of her high school football team, goes home for a high school reunion, revisiting old family issues.
"PTown Diaries," directed by Joseph Mantegna , USA
Residents, celebrities and local authors Michael Cunningham and Normal Mailer reveal the eccentric history of gay summer resort Provincetown, MA. Narrated by Alan Cumming.
"Punch Like A Girl," directed by Maya Gallus, Canada
Follows the dramas of female amateur boxers in and out of the ring.
"Rampant: How A City Stopped The Plague," directed by Victoria Midwinter Pitt , Australia
The little-known story of how gay men, IV drug users, and the prostitutes of Sydney, Australia pulled off one of the world’s first and boldest strikes against AIDS. Focusing on stories of individuals from the “gay ghetto” Darlinghurst and the brothel district.
"Smile 'Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story," directed by Lee Storey, USA
The amazing true story of the singing phenomenon, Up With People, a youth group formed by an ultra-conservative religious sect as a counter to the counter culture of the 1960s. The energetic smiley youth group performed worldwide to 20 million people a
"Standing-N-Truth: Breaking the Silence," directed by Timothy Daniels, USA
The personal narrative of African American men, women, and children in the face of the HIV pandemic.
"Straightlaced - How genders' got us all tied up," directed by Debra Chasnoff, USA
Coming of age today is challenging and complex; a fascinating array of teenagers open up with brave, intimate, honesty about their fears, frustrations, and courage.
"Training Rules," directed by Dee Mosbacher, USA
Narrated by international swimming great Diana Nyad (National Public Radio), TRAINING RULES examines how women’s collegiate sports, caught in a web of homophobic practices, destroys the lives and dreams of many of its most talented athletes.
"Trinidad," directed by PJ Raval, USA
Trinidad uncovers Trinidad, Colorad's transformation from Wilod West outpost to 'sex change capital of the world' and follows three transgender women who may steer the rural ranching town toward becoming the 'transsexual mecca'.
"Word Is Out - Restored," Mariposa Film Group, USA
Gay life comes out of the closet with a bang in this must-see film showing what gay life was really about in the 1970s. This seminal documentary beautifully and honestly tells the story of gay identity through the stories of 26 'everyday' gay and lesbian Americans. Enjoy a newly re-mastered 35mm print from the UCLA Film Archive and the Outfest Legacy Project.
"All My Life," directed by Maher Sabry, Egypt
When his lover leaves him, Rami plunges into loveless relationships while the government is cracking down on gays in Egypt.
"The Art of Being Straight," directed by Jesse Rosen, USA
Bored with New York City, twenty-something Jon moves to Los Angeles to stay with his best friend Andy and his frat boy buddies. While working at an advertising firm Jon finds himself wondering why he's attracted to his older gay boss.
"The Boy with Sun in His Eyes," directed by Todd Verow, USA
At his best frien's funeral, John meets Solange and heads off to Europe with her to learn the truth about his friend and himself.
"Chica Busca Chica," directed by Sonia Sebastian, Spain
This web series' luscious ladies, unabashed romanticism, and clever plot twists have won over the hearts of thousands of fans worldwide. Nines, who bartends at the local dyke bar, hops into bed with adorable Monica but flees when things get serious.
"Drool," directed by Nancy Kissam, USA
Part Thelma & Louise and part Little Miss Sunshine, this unusual black comedy follows the evolution of Anora (Laura Harring), an unhappy housewife trapped in the suburbs with an abusive husband. Then she meets exciting new neighbor Imogene (Jill Marie Jones).
"An Englishman In New York," directed by Richard Laxton, UK
John Hurt, Denis O'Hare, Jonathan Tucker, Cynthia Nixon, and Swoosie Kurtz headline this loving tribute to Quentin Crisp and the city of New York. Picking up where The Naked Civil Servant left off, Englishman chronicles Crisp's move from London to New York and the later years of his life.
"Ghosted," directed by Monika Treut, Germany
An unusual love story that bridges two worlds. Artist Sophie Schnmitt travels from Hamburg to Taipei to come to terms with the sudden and unexplained death of her Taiwanese lover Ai-Ling. There, Sophie is pursued by a pushy journalist.
"Give Me Your Hand," directed by Pascal-Alex Vincent, France
Antoine and Quentin are identical twin brothers trekking across country to attend their mother's funeral in Spain, pausing only to take on day labor, wrestle, or hook up along the way.
"Greek Pete," directed by Andrew Haigh, UK
Blurring fiction and documentary, the film follows a year in the life of a rentboy.
"Light Gradient," directed by Jan Kruger, Germany
This film tells the story of a journey of two men, travelling light, searching for the truth between the facade, for fairy-tale moments in the heart of the countryside, and for a natural gay relationship far from the madding crowd.
"Misconceptions," directed by Ron Satlof, USA
Miranda Bliss (Criminal Minds' A.J. Cook) is a conservative Christian Southern woman who believes she's received a mission from God: to carry a baby for two gay men she's never met.
"Mississippi Damned," directed by Tina Mabry, USA
Wanting to escape was the easy part.
"No Way Out," directed by Joel Lamangan, The Philippines
Joaquin, an unassuming fisherman, is forced to confront his homosexuality when his sex-starved wife Cynthia returns from her overseas job eager to get pregnant.
"Noah's Arc: Jumping The Broom," directed by Patrik-Ian Polk, USA
The groundbreaking Logo series jumps to the big screen for a special midnight showing. Picking up where the show left off, Noah and his friends head off to Martha's Vineyard for Noah's (Darryl Stephens) marriage to Wade (Jensen Atwood).
"Nonsense Revolution," directed by Ann Verrall, Canada
Eighteen-year-old Tess tries to reunite her estranged friends with the help of a randy-bisexual angel.
"Out of the Blue," directed by Alain Tasma , France
Marion is a middle-aged mother and wife who makes the bold move of leaving her husband and starting over in a search for the element that was previously missing from her life. Independent but terrified, Marion's world changes quickly...
"Patrik, Age 1.5," directed by Ella Lemhagen, Sweden
Husbands Sven and Goran step into a picture-perfect suburban life and now long for a baby to call their own. After a string of disappointments at the adoption agency, good news appears to have manifested in the form of an infant named Patrik. But rather than receiving a 1.5 year old, a mix up delivers a 15 year old homophobe!
"Pornography," directed by David Kittredge, USA
When an adult film actor disappears, two men obsessively hunt the supernatural truth.
"Raging Sun, Raging Sky," directed by Julian Hernandez, Mexico
The final installment in Julian Hernandez's trilogy, following A Thousands Clouds of Peaches and Broken Sky, is an epic, must-see masterpiece tapping into the mythological eroticism explored in such gay classics as Pink Narcissus and Sebastiane.
"Shank," directed by Simon Pearce, UK
Class struggle, gay romance and hot action all meet in the amazing UK film, Shank as the lives of Cal and Olivier intersect in this gritty, urban street drama.
"Society," directed by Vincent Maloi, South Africa
The groundbreaking mini-series boldly portrayed the first depiction of a lesbian relationship on south African television, and has been recut into a feature version for theatrical viewing. Billed the South African Sex and the City.
"Soundless WInd Chime," directed by Kit Hung, Hong Kong
Told through flashbacks, the emotionally rich, Soundless Wind Chime tells of the journey of Ricky, searching for his own lost soul and discovering the past of his Swiss lover, Pascal. The love story of Ricky and Pascal is the central memory, with other
"Watercolors," directd by David Oliveras, USA
Danny (talented newcomer Tye Olson) is a sensitive teenage boy whose only passion in life lies in his watercolor paintings. Danny's life changes dramatically when his mom invites troubled swim team star Carter (Kyle Clare) to share Danny's room.