Notes from NewFest

So a week into the 18th New York LGBT Film Festival (also known simply as NewFest) and here’s some word on films that are hot/worth seeing/weirdly unique & smart/distinctive. Look out for these when they hit your arthouse cinema—or a gay cable channel—near you!

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Strangers With Candy
The movie spin-off of the wildly popular Amy Sedaris TV series is fun. It’s not amazing, mind you, but if you’re fan of the show, you’ll love the movie. Full of wrong humor, a brilliant turn by Stephen Colbert, some deliciously wicked non-P.C. zingers (including all kinds of “fag”-related jokes, all done at the expense of straight folks, basically) and the usual Sedaris-fueled ridiculousness. Fun! (Getting a release from ThinkFilm on June 28th!)

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Rag Tag
A totally unique, interesting love story taking place in London and Nigeria between two black British men. A glimpse of a culture very different than most folks here in the U.S. have encountered. Impressive. And with a killer hip-hop soundtrack.

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The Lost Tribe
A winning, very emotional extraordinary doc about an Australian Mormon lesbian comic (for real!) who goes to Salt Lake City to speak at the gay Mormon conference. And it’s funny!

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Songbirds
This flick bills itself as the first documentary musical—and they’re probably right! Women in a U.K. prison (some of whom are pretty dangerous characters) sing haunting tunes which exemplify their personalities. It’s a completely unique way to examine the culture of women in prison. Talk about jailhouse rock!

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In The Blood
A horror-loving friend of mine called this one, “The first good gay horror film I’ve ever seen. Really awesome. It’s suspenseful, well-made—and sexy.” A gay college boy starts seeing visions of his sister all bloodied up. Meanwhile, a serial killer is on the loose on campus! First-time feature director Lou Peterson scores!

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Say Amen
A warm and accurate portrait of modern-day working class Israelis dealing (or not dealing) with their son/brother being gay.

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East Side Story
A funny and smart feature about coming out and gentrification in East L.A., at heart this one’s a charming romantic Latino family comedy that overcomes its obviously shoestring production values by sharp writing, winning performances (the women in the film are great!) and good, cleverly witty heart.

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Cabalerno
This super-short short film by Jarrah Gurrie (it’s only 5 minutes long) may be my favorite short of the NewFest. A grainy B&W flick about a boy who likes to watch the hot skater dude in his ’hood. Simple and gorgeous, and with a wryly smart grasp of desire and humor. Score!

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Jack Mitchell: My Life Is Black & White
Very PBS. This charming bio-documentary serves up the career of noted NYC photographer Jack Mitchell who spent the 1950s-1990s shooting the most talented performers (from the dance world, Broadway, Hollywood—and literati like Truman Capote and Edward Albee) for publications like The New York Times and the classic underground, gay-ish magazine After Dark. John Lennon. Stephen Sondheim. Andy Warhol. Meryl Streep. Leonard Bernstein. Gloira Swanson. Rudolph Nureyev. Merce Cunningham. Every seminal artist from the last half of the 20th Century glowed in front of Jack Mitchell’s lens. And Mitchell himself? A low-key, charming, gifted gay artist. It’s the kind of movie that’s totally gonna want to make you move to NYC and hang out with artsy photographers and Broadway types. Ah, showbiz!

Check more of Jack Mitchell’s famous pics below…

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John & Yoko, 1980

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Edward Albee

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Gloria Swanson.