The second installment of New York City’s FUERZAfest – NYC’s first Latinx LGBTQI festival – has just started and it couldn’t be timelier. Bringing together the worlds of fine arts, activism, theater and film, FUERZAfest is a collective initiative born around the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Its goals are to shine light on the erasure and violence suffered by Latinx LGBTQI people and to provide creatives and attendees with a space to safely gather and share their stories.
“The last year has seen an alarming rise in homophobia and xenophobia as a direct result of the hateful narrative in our national political debate,” said FUERZAfest director Mario Colón in a statement. “Being a Latinx LGBTQI person these days in the United States can be scary, especially following the Pulse tragedy in Orlando. That’s why now more than ever we need to revisit how our communities respond to and resist these threats.”
This year’s theme is “Breaking Down Walls,” and along with the festival’s opening panel of the same name, the goal is to help unite segmented struggles into a coordinated fight for equality. The panel kick off, which took place Wednesday, May 10, featured conversations with Director of Proyecto Somos Orlando and Pulse survivor Ricardo Negrón, trans Latina activist Cecilia Gentili, and Gabby Rivera, the queer writer behind the America Chavez title over at Marvel comics. Another prime example of the festival’s intersectional message came with the screening of Forbidden, a documentary film by Tiffany Rhynard that follows gay undocumented activist Moises Serrano as he grapples with life in rural America during the rise of xenophobic populist politics.
FUERZAfest will be showcasing works from all over Latin America as well as the diaspora May 10th – 21st at the Julia de Burgos Performance and Arts Center, in the heart of El Barrio, in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. This year, the festival will also honor and remember the 49 victims of the Pulse shooting tragedy, with a memorial installation that highlights each victim’s story.
Though you can pop in and enjoy the shows at any time, we’ve selected a few festival highlights deserving of your attention:
Curated by Richard Morales and Sofía Reeser del Río, “Still Here” is the exhibition at the core of this year’s FUERZAfest. With central themes of visibility and counteracting cultural erasure, the collection features work by over 10 artists and will be on display throughout the 12-day length of the festival.
Strike a Pose
This documentary by directors Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan tells the story of seven male dancers who toured with Madonna in the early 1990s and appeared in her iconic film Truth or Dare. The buzzy film has found acclaim on the festival circuit and explores themes of sexual repression in communities of color as well as life and loss during the height of the AIDS crisis.
Strike a Pose will be screening Sunday May 14th at 2:00 pm, and admission is free and open to the public.
This film, by director Pepa San Martín, is based on the true story of a Chilean judge who lost custody of her daughters for being an out lesbian openly living with her partner. The story is told through the eyes of the eldest daughter, Sara, as she balances the complexities of unconditional family love and navigating Chile’s conservative social structures.
Rara will be screening Monday May 15th at 5:30 pm, and admission is free and open to the public.
La Otra Historia
Tapping into FUERZAfest’s Caribbean roots, La Otra Historia is a play by Pedro Monge Refuls that mixes Santeria tradition with queer love. The play pits Changó and Ochún against each other in a bizarre love triangle, examining how the orishas perceive and process homosexuality.
Performances of La Otra Historia can be seen on Thursday May 18th and Saturday May 20th at 7:00 pm. Learn more here.
This play by Federico Roca pays homage to the six Uruguayan trans women who were murdered between 2012 and 2013. Only one of their cases has since been solved. The production pulls the victims from statistical obscurity and humanizes them by telling a story that finds our privileged and aloof society to be ultimately complicit in their untimely deaths.
Performances of Seis can be seen on Friday May 19th at 7:00 pm and Saturday May 20th at 2:00 pm. Learn more here.