By Sean Boelman
After a summer event that already had a fantastic lineup, NewFest returns to New York City this month with their full-fledged event, showcasing some of the most exciting queer films of the year. In addition to the festival’s usual crop of LGBTQIA+ independent films, the festival also has screenings of some of the most anticipated award contenders of the year.
While we’re sure those gala screenings are going to be at the top of everyone’s list, we at disappointment media wanted to call your attention to some of the more under-the-radar gems playing at this year’s festival.
While there are plenty of intriguing documentaries playing at this year’s NewFest, none is more unconventional than Theo Montoya’s Anhell69. The film often blurs the line between documentary and fiction in its portrait and exploration of the queer scene in Medellín, Colombia. It’s a complex film that demands the viewer’s patience and cooperation in putting together all of the pieces Montoya presents, but for those viewers willing to get onto Montoya’s wavelength, it’s sure to be a rewarding experience.
It’s rare to see plus-size representation in LGBTQIA+ cinema, but Big Boys — as the title implies — is a movie about that subset of the queer community. Following a teenager who goes through a sexual awakening while on a camping trip with his cousin and her boyfriend, this is the type of comedy that gets its laughs from how incredibly awkward it is. And yet, there’s something undeniably sweet and innocent about this story of a first crush, especially given the infectiously big heart with which the story is told.
The Mattachine Family
Andy and Danny Vallentine’s The Mattachine Family might be a saccharine family comedy, but it’s hard to hate a film that’s as warm-hearted as this. Following a gay couple whose relationship and idea of family is put to the test after their foster child is reunited with his birth mother, the film is simply adorable. Although it leans a bit heavy into the melodrama at times, the Vallentines know exactly what type of movie they’re making, and that’s what they deliver: a charming crowd-pleaser, with a splash of romantic comedy, and a bit of tear-jerker thrown in.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Monster is the first movie the master filmmaker didn’t write himself, but it’s extremely layered nonetheless. Outwardly, the film is a Rashomon-style nonlinear mystery about an incident at a school and the strange behaviors of a young boy. However, as the layers begin to unfold in their characteristically nonlinear style, it becomes clear that the film is, at its center, the story of a unique bond forming between two boys. As always, Kore-eda remains adept at cutting to the core humanity of his story.
Luke Gilford’s directorial debut National Anthem was one of the sleeper critical darlings of this year’s SXSW earlier this year before making an encore at TIFF in the fall. Now, LGBTQIA+ audiences in New York City are getting to see this tale of a young construction worker who unexpectedly finds his place among a group of queer radio performers. Although the story adheres a bit too comfortably to conventional beats, Gilford tells it with such an authentic heart that it’s easy to get invested in it. Add in some gorgeous visuals and a tremendous performance from Charlie Plummer, and the result is pretty fantastic.
The 2023 edition of NewFest runs October 12-24 in New York City.
The Snake Hole
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