Last weekend I dove into NewFest 2019, New York City’s LGBTQ Film Festival, enjoying 18 screenings over 5 days. Overall I did well, truly disliking only one of the 15 features and 26 shorts I saw.
Here are my recommendations, a smorgasbord of Queer cinema to watch out for, starting with my top three favorites:
And Then We Danced
Sweden’s official Oscar submission for Best International Film (the erstwhile Foreign Film category), “And Then We Danced” won the NewFest Audience Award. Set in the world of Georgian traditional dance, it is an exquisitely fashioned film with an electrifying central performance (Levan Gelbakhiani) and vibrantly authentic depictions of Georgian society, relationships and dance. Writer/Director Levan Akin had to make the film almost guerrilla style in conservative, homophobic Georgia, but the result is not only a great LGBTQ movie, a great dance movie, but simply one of the year’s best films in any category.
The Shiny Shrimps
This charmer about a French gay water polo team was co-written and co-directed by a member of an actual French gay water polo team, Cédric Le Gallo, who insists that all the high jinks and high spirits depicted in the film are true to life, even if the plot of the film is pure fiction. The plot concerns an Olympic swimmer being forced to redeem himself – and be allowed to continue competing at Olympic level – after being caught on camera making a homophobic remark. So he coaches The Shiny Shrimps, a team of varied misfits much like the gay soccer players of “Guys and Balls“, going on a cross-continental bus trip much like in “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, and sporting a laughs to tears ratio reminiscent of “Four Weddings and a Funeral”. Featuring a fine ensemble cast (that includes Geoffrey Couët from the seminal “Paris 05:59: Theo and Hugo”), “The Shiny Shrimps” may echo many past ensemble comedy classics, but also holds up well beside them. I laughed (and cried) the most at its screening during the festival.
Music for Bleeding Hearts
One could say Brazilian writer/director Rafael Gomes’ São Paulo set comedy “Music for Bleeding Hearts” concerns a love triangle, but that would seriously simplify the complicated relationship shifts between the three leads as well as many others in their orbits. Life and love’s messiness is made even more complicated as well as fascinating by Gomes editing, jumping back and forth in time, comparing and contrasting characters’ past and present actions. After all the complications and diversions, Gomes manages to conclude the film on the perfect note. Not necessarily a conclusive ending to the story (because life itself goes on and on) but a perfect final shot for a really good film. And that elevated “Music for Bleeding Hearts” to my top three of the festival. Afterwards I literally (as in physically) pushed Ed to speak to Gomes in Portuguese, a fanboy moment out of character, and which was a little awkward for the three of us, but one I don’t regret at all. Sometimes you just got to gush, especially if it can be done in the director’s native language.
“The Shiny Shrimps” and “And Then We Danced” have US distribution. The former is scheduled for release in January, the latter’s release date hasn’t been announced yet, but it surely will be released in theaters eventually (maybe after its hoped for and likely International Film Oscar nomination). “Music for Bleeding Hearts” opens in Brazil in March 2020. Hopefully it will make its way to US screens too.
There are many more recommendations to make amongst the films I caught at NewFest, most of which will hopefully make their way to some sort of screen near you soon: