What to See at This Year's Newfest LGBTQ+ Film Festival

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday October 2, 2022
Originally published on October 2, 2022

'My Policeman,' starring Harry Styles, is featured at this year's Newfest
'My Policeman,' starring Harry Styles, is featured at this year's Newfest  

On the heels of the New York Film Festival, NewFest bows on October 13, 2022, and will run through October 25th. The 34th annual festival, which celebrates LGBTQ+ cinema, will showcase over 130 films from 23 countries.

There is much to enjoy this year, beginning with the Opening Night

World Premiere of the HBO doc, "Mama's Boys," adapted from Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black's 2019 memoir. The Fest closes with Laura Poitras' award-winning doc, "All the Beauty and the Bloodshed," which focuses on famed artist and activist Nan Goldin.

Narrative features dominate the Centerpiece screenings beginning with Michael Grandage's highly-anticipated, "My Policeman," starring Harry Styles and Emma Corrin, as well as Todd Flaherty's genius dark comedy, "Chrissy Judy," as well as Elegance Bratton's narrative debut film, "The Inspection."

The doc Centerpiece is Magnus Gertten's "Nelly and Nadine," and NewFest attendees will be able to enjoy the first episode of Season 2 of HBO's multi-Emmy-winning series, "The White Lotus," as well as experience the 30th anniversary screening of Tom Kalin's groundbreaking "Swoon" — and even take part in a sing-along event with the showing of the 1980 cult musical "Xanadu," starring the great Olivia Newton-John.

The 2022 hybrid edition of NewFest's flagship festival will take place in theaters in NYC and virtually throughout the United States on NewFest's on-demand platform. Last year's attendance broke records. This year's in-person premieres locations are in Manhattan at SVA Theatre and The LGBT Community Center, as well as in Brooklyn for the second year, at Nitehawk Prospect Park and The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

"We believe that visibility and authentic representation can change lives and even save lives," states NewFest Executive Director David Hatkoff. "As we've done for 34 years, we are excited to create a space for audiences in NYC and throughout the country to say to the world 'we're here, we're queer, and we're not going anywhere.'"

All-access virtual and in-person passes are on sale now at www.newfest.org.

EDGE sampled many of the NewFest films that were available to pre-screen, and here are our recommendations.

(Source: 'Mama's Boy')

"Mama's Boy"

Laurent Bouzereau deeply affecting doc, "Mama's Boy" is a tribute to the resilience, fortitude and spirit of an extraordinary woman, Roseanna Bisch, the mother of Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black ("Milk"). The film begins with Black's Oscar acceptance speech, where he made a promise to queer youth about having federal equal rights. It was his mother, diagnosed with polio at an early age, who reminded him of the importance of this promise. The film explores her childhood, his growing up gay and Mormon — which flew in the face of the strict dogma of that Church — as well as his relationships with other family members. The often painful honestly displayed by Black, and his encouraging message about building bridges instead of hiding in our own bubbles, makes this doc one of the best I've seen this year.

*Black recently reported on his Instagram page that he has been suffering from a head injury for over a month and will be slow to recover. We can only hope he will get well soon and give us more wonderful stories to engage with.

'The Blue Caftan'
'The Blue Caftan'  

"The Blue Caftan"

Morocco's is to be commended for its International Oscar entry, Maryam Touzani's "The Blue Caftan" an exquisitely-crafted meditation on love in a world where same-sex desire is not just frowned upon, but could mean alienation, prison — even death. Halim (Salem Bakri) is a devoted husband to his ailing wife, Mina (Lubna Azabal). His suppressed yearning for men only manifests in brief trysts at the local bathhouse. Halim is a master tailor who hand crafts his work, a dying art. The couple hire Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), a good-looking young apprentice, and feelings begin to develop between the two men. Touzani has woven together a sensitive, graceful, touching work about repression, connection and acceptance. All three actors are extraordinary. In Arabic with English subtitles.

'Chrissy Judy'
'Chrissy Judy'  

"Chrissy Judy"

What more can be said about "Chrissy Judy?" You need only chart how this film is enchanting festival-goers across the country. Queer filmmaker Todd Flaherty (who wrote, directed, produced, edited and stars) proves a true cinematic indie force. The movie centers on NY drag artist Judy (Flaherty), who breaks with his close partner and friend, Chrissy (Wyatt Fenner), and must figure out who he is on his own. This dark comedy, lovingly photographed in black and white by Brendan Flaherty, digs deep in its exploration of a fragile soul and his missed opportunities and the results are exhilarating. Flaherty the director is assured and bold in his choices. Flaherty the writer, incisive, sassy and authentic, taking stereotypes and inverting them. Flaherty, the actor? Sheer perfection.

"El Houb (The Love)"

Shariff Nasr's incredibly poignant and funny film, "El Houb (The Love)" examines the world of Karim (Fahd Larhzaoui), a Moroccan-Dutch man who is forced to come out to his uber-conservative Muslim parents as well as his homophobic brother. Their collective anger and outrage force Karim to literally lock himself in the family closet as he attempts to reach them. He also ruminates on the damage his repression has had on him life. "El Houb" is a loving, urgent film about having the courage to be one's true self in the face of hatred and adversity (cultural or religious). The final moments are sublime. In English, Arabic and Dutch with English subtitles.

'Lonesome'
'Lonesome'  

"Lonesome"

Craig Boreham's intense and impressive feature "Lonesome" has graced almost every major LGBTQ+ festival in the last year. The movie centers on handsome cowboy Casey (Josh Lavery, riveting to watch) who has fled his small farm community for seedy Sydney (Australia), where he hooks up with super-sexually active Tib (Daniel Gabriel). Their tempestuous relationship reveals the damage their respective pasts have caused — and the viewer is left disquieted but enlightened.

'Before I Change My Mind'
'Before I Change My Mind'  

"Before I Change My Mind"

Canadian director Trevor Anderson has fashioned a delightfully odd film with "Before I Change My Mind," set in the late '80s centering on Robin (terrific newcomer Vaughan Murrae), who has moved from the States to Alberta. Is Robin a boy or a girl, schoolmates crassly wonder? When Robin forges a bond with school bully Carter (Dominic Lippa), things get super bizarre. The film's pièce de résistance is a wacky stage musical, "Mary Magdalene: Video Star," a campy show about the life of Christ seen through the eyes of the biblical prostitute. It's hilarious.

'Unidentified Objects'
'Unidentified Objects'  

"Unidentified Objects" (U.S. Centerpiece)

"Unidentified Objects," is a singular road trip film where cranky Peter (Matthew August Jeffers), a self-described "college-educated homosexual dwarf," apprehensively agrees to journey with his oddball neighbor Winona (Sarah Hay) to Canada where she is certain aliens will be waiting to sweep her off this planet. Filmmaker Juan Felipe Zuleta delivers an engaging first feature thanks to a witty script by Leland Frankel and two fab lead performances. Peter's dance sequence is heartbreaking.

'Keep the Cameras Rolling: The Pedro Zamora Way'
'Keep the Cameras Rolling: The Pedro Zamora Way'  

"Keep the Cameras Rolling: The Pedro Zamora Way"

In the early '90s, when AIDS was still decimating our best and brightest, a young man named Pedro Zamora blazed a trail as an activist who had the courage to have his journey told in a very public manner, via MTV's hit reality series, "The Real World." William T. Horner & Stacey Woelfel respectful and loving doc "Keep the Cameras Rolling: The Pedro Zamora Way" explores Zamora's short but heroic life as well as the tremendous cultural impact his presence on that show had when it came to the general public accepting and understanding people with HIV — and queer people. My one complaint is that, although the filmmakers chat with five of his "Real World" housemates, there is no mention of Puck, with whom Zamora had an antagonistic relationship. It's a glaring omission, and feels like an attempt at revisionist history on the part of the filmmakers.

'I'll Show You Mine'
'I'll Show You Mine'  

"I'll Show You Mine"

Megan Griffiths' "I'll Show You Mine," a winning two-hander, runs a bit out of steam in its second half, mostly because its daring dissipates, but it is still worth the time. Nick (Casey Thomas Brown) arrives on the doorstep of his aunt Priya (Poorna Jagannathan), ostensibly prepared to record his memoirs for her to write, but things turn into more of a therapy session for both. Nick is a self-proclaimed pansexual with a history of exploitation as a gender non-conforming model, while Priya's sexual history is more secret — until not. Both actors are dynamic, and Griffiths does a nice job directing an ambitious script by Tiffany Louquet, Elizabeth Searle, and David Shields.

'Nana's Boys'
'Nana's Boys'  

"Nana's Boys"

Another two-hander, Ashton Pina's "Nana's Boys," centers on a Black gay male couple facing revelations that will test just how strong their relationship is. Amari (an excellent David J. Cork) awakens late on the morning of his 30th birthday conflicted about his life. His sig-other, Q (Jared Wayne Gladly) is in a much better place, at least career-wise. Both men are thrown for a loop when an outside explosion forces a lockdown. The two must then grapple with where who they are and what they mean to one another. The film fizzles in its last quarter but the actors keep the viewer engaged.

Frank J. Avella is a film journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep and a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. Frank is a recipient of the International Writers Residency in Assisi, Italy, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, and a NJ State Arts Council Fellowship. His short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide (figjamfilm.com) and won awards. His screenplays (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW) have also won numerous awards in 16 countries. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute