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Newfest celebrates Gay Pride month

NEWFEST KICKS OFF GAY PRIDE MONTH


June is, among other things, Gay Pride Month, a time for the gay and lesbian communities around the US to celebrate their hard-won rights and freedoms. Celebrations range from street fairs to parades to fashion shows and music concerts. And film festivals. In June alone, gay and lesbian film festivals will be held in such gay strongholds as New York, Provincetown and San Francisco. In the coming months, more than 40 such events will be held around the US. These festivals are a time for the gay community to be visible and celebrate its place in the mosaic of American life.

One of the oldest gay and lesbian film festivals, which kicks off the month-long celebrations, is in New York. The NewFest, now in its 17th year, is New York’s largest film showcase of gay, lesbian and transgender film and video. This year, the Festival will present over 250 new works from 35 countries…..a truly international event that illuminates the diversity, uniqueness and shared concerns of the gay and lesbian community. This “meeting of the tribe” has an even great resonance these days, as conservative political forces move to chip away at hard-won rights and have turned such issues as gay marriage and adoption into hot-button political issues.

NewFest 2005 opened last night (June 2) with the East Coast Premiere of LOGGERHEADS, an American film Academy Award-nominees Tess Harper and Chris Sarandon, and featuring Bonnie Hunt, Michael Kelly and Michael Learned. The film, which was written and directed by Tim Kirkman, follows the journey of a young drifter who makes a pilgrimage to a small coastal town in order to save the endangered Loggerhead turtles that nest on the beach in the summer. His presence serves as a catalyst for the lives of the other characters, each of them at a crossroads in their lives. The film will have its theatrical release this Fall by specialty distributor Strand Releasing.

The Festival’s Closing Night Film will be SUMMER STORM, German director Marco Kreuzpainter’s sensitive portrait of two young men and their hidden longings during a summer rowing contest. The film will be released in theaters by Here! Films, one of the Festival’s sponsors.

MY SUMMER OF LOVE, a vibrant tale of two sixteen-year olds girls spending one long, hot English summer together, is the directorial debut of UK director Pawel Pawlikowski. The film, which has received many awards on the Festival circuit, is set for a theatrical release by Focus Features in the next few weeks.

THREE OF HEARTS: A POSTMODERN FAMILY, by American director Susan Kaplan, provides a rare insight into the relationship dynamics of a triangle of two men and one woman (ménage-a-trois, anyone?). The film, one of a raft of documentaries to be showcased at the Festival, will be distributed this Fall by Think Film.

"It’s a testament to the visibility and growth of gay and lesbian cinema that all of NewFest’s galas have theatrical distribution behind them”, Festival Director Basil Tsiokos exclaimed. “ We are proud to have a program reflecting the continuing openness of the public and the marketplace to gay film, and to maintain our position as the community’s first look at the newest and best in queer cinema,” Tsiokos added.

The wide-ranging program, which runs through June 11th and boasts 13 world premieres, 21 U.S. premieres and 41 New York premieres, includes such highlights as: ADAM AND STEVE (US), a winning comedy of two New York City couples, one heterosexual, the other gay, directed by actor-turned-director Craig Chester; 100% HUMAN (Norway), a documentary about a young woman who was mistaken for a boy at birth, raised male, and then decides to have surgery at the age of 22 to correct the situation; BASED ON A TRUE STORY (The Netherlands), a fascinating look at the true story of the Brooklyn bank robber who needs money to pay for his male lover’s sex change operation, that was the basis behind the classic 1970s film DOG DAY AFTERNOON starring Al Pacino; and COTE D’AZUR (France), the feel-good hit of the Berlin Film Festival that offers a smorgasboard of varied sexual appetites set on the French Riviera.

Other anticipated titles include: DEREK JARMAN: LIFE AS ART (UK), a fascinating look at the career and life of the iconoclastic film director; FORMULA 17 (Taiwan), the local box office hit about an innocent teenage boy’s journey to the big city for a summer of love and adventure; GARCON STUPIDE (Switzerland), the story of a young man’s addiction to casual sexual encounters to fill the emotional void in his life; PRODUCING ADULTS (Finland), a feminist comedy that was Finland’s official submission for this year’s Oscar; SHOW ME (Canada), a taut lesbian thriller; THAT MAN: PETER BERLIN (US), a modern-day portrait of the porn actor and director Peter Berlin, an icon of 1970s gay culture; and A YEAR WITHOUT LOVE (Argentina), a young writer stricken with AIDS who eases his physical and emotional suffering by exploring the sexual underworld of sado-masochism in contemporary Buenos Aires.

Aside from the films on offer, the Festival will present a two-day Filmmakers Forum, a series of panels and discussions on such topics Out in Sports, Female Masculinity, Starting Small: Shorts Filmmaking, Queer Parenting, The Golden Age of Gay Sex, and AIDS Films.

Asked about potential rivalry for hot titles from other film festivals (both gay and mainstream), Festival Director Basil Tsiokos explained that “competition from other LGBT festivals is not usually an issue, however we sometimes face the issue of distributors choosing the premiere their titles in more mainstream venues, but that doesn't necessarily mean we can't also show the works.”

Securing sponsorship dollars for consumer companies to reach the hot gay market is another area of potential rivalry in a city with so many cultural events aimed at the gay population. “There will always be competition for sponsorship dollars, not only from other film events, but also from other cultural events”, Tsiokos offered. “There's always hundreds of things to do in New York City on any given evening for the gay and lesbian crowd, and sponsors know that.”

When queried about his hopes for this year’s edition, Tsiokos shared that “we want our audiences to appreciate the breadth and range of selections, featuring many many works that will sadly unlikely be screened elsewhere anytime soon.”

For more information on NEWFEST, log on to their website: www.newfest.org.


Sandy Mandelberger
Industry Editor

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Chatelin Bruno
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