By Brian Brooks | Indiewire June 15, 2006 at 9:50AM
NewFest, the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Film Festival wrapped up Sunday, giving Larry Grimaldi and Kirk Marcolina the Showtime Vanguard Award. The doc, which premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival, spotlights the first overnight camp for gay Christian youth, following the campers as they experience the "requisite gossip, crushes, and interpersonal conflicts of summer camp, as well as more serious discussions with camp staff on how to be true to both one's spirituality and one's sexuality." "Camp Out" also won the best documentary award at the festival.
The prize for best U.S. narrative feature went to Ned Farr's "The Gymnast." The drama chronicles the journey two women take "to grow and to find newfound strength together. Bosnia-Herzegovina-set film "Go West" by Ahmed Imamovic took the best foreign narrative award. Set against the backdrop of the brutal inter-ethnic wars in Bosnia and
Herzegovina in the early 1990s, two gay men fight to stay alive and together. A special mention went to "Gypo" by Jan Dunn for ensemble acting.
In other prizes, Swedish director Jenifer Malmquist's "Peace Talk" won best short, while Janet Baus, Dan Hunt, and Reid Williams' "Cruel & Unusual" won the audience award for best feature. David Dean Bottrell's "Available Men" won the audience nod for best short, and Abe Sylvia's "Dirty Girl" received the Vito Russo Award, which honors a New York-based film project in progress.
"NewFest 2006 was incredibly successful. Audiences responded very positively to our programming, and box office revenue and attendance were up significantly," NewFest executive director Basil Tsiokos told indieWIRE via email about this year's event. "Our opening night screening of 'Strangers With Candy' was a real highlight for me. Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello (director/writer/actor) were present for the intro and a Q&A and they were hilarious. Not a single audience member left the theatre during the end credits, in anticipation of their Q & A."
Tsiokos touted the relevance of gay festivals in light of gay content commonly programmed in many "mainstream" film festivals. "There is something different about watching a gay film in a gay context with a whole audience of gay people. It's a social and celebratory function that non-LGBT specific festivals can't fulfill for gay audiences or for gay filmmakers. And for the filmmakers, distributors, and films, a festival like NewFest is an important testing ground for the core audience response they are hoping to reach if they are able to get a theatrical or DVD release."
Looking to the future, Tsiokos encourages new filmmakers to move beyond the typical formulaic gay films. "It's up to filmmakers to step up to the plate and create something new and exciting
instead of the same old stories and formulas. The digital video revolution has made filmmaking more economically feasible, but that has also meant that a lot of people are making a lot of bad, or horribly derivative, films.
The most interesting submissions we have received have been ones that push the familiar boundaries into new territories, disrupt genre expectations, and offer fresh new voices and faces," said Tsiokos. "My advice to new filmmakers is to be aware of what's out there - beyond exposure at festivals like NewFest, with outlets like here! TV and Logo, and distributors like TLA, Strand, Picture This, and others. More and more LGBT film has a really good chance to reach the public." NewFest took began on June 1 and concluded on June 11 this year.