For its 26th year, NewFest, New York’s LGBT Film Festival, has assembled an engrossing slate of films, ranging from the high profile screening of Todd Haynes’s much-anticipated Carol with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, to the YouTube-friendly horror comedy You’re Killing Me, just in time for Halloween. It’s an eclectic selection that speaks to the diversity in the LGBT community, and by far more racially and ethnically diverse than the swathe of mainstream gay flicks one tends to come across at the multiplex.
Amidst this younger-skewing selection, those looking for trans stories from Chile, lesbian stories from Venezuela, horror films set in Spain, and forbidden gay affairs set in Mexico are sure to find something to enjoy in NewFest’s offerings this year. Below are the Latino films playing the pioneering fest.
Liz is a middle class professional who meets up at an idyllic tropical beach resort each September with a group of lesbian friends. This year, however, she finds herself desperately hiding the fact that she has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. When a beautiful newcomer named Eva shows up, Liz’s friends challenge her to seduce the young heterosexual woman, who happens to be mourning the loss of her child from cancer. As they strike up a relationship, the two women’s mutual bonds lead them to find unexpected depth in their fleeting encounter.
Sergei Eisenstein was a Soviet filmmaker who revolutionized silent (and propaganda) films with 1925’s Battleship Potemkin, and whose brief stay in Mexico is the inspiration for Peter Greenaway’s biopic. It’s a sexy and hilarious tribute to the legendary director, who fell in love with Mexico — and a few handsome Mexicans in particular — while attempting to film a movie. Greenaway mixes palettes, taking Eisenstein from quiet, black-and-white moments to color-soaked epiphanies. Eisenstein’s boundless lust ultimately proved to be his movie’s undoing, but here he (mostly) just has a great time. Eisenstein in Guanajuato screened in the main competition at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.
Upon learning of her father’s death, Elena travels back to her home to attend his funeral. His mother attempts to maintain a sense of normality in the household after her husband’s death, but the return of her former son, who now goes by Elena (played by trans actress Daniela Vega), causes an increasingly tense atmosphere that threatens to explode at any minute.
The film follows Jo (Josephine Decker), a woman who decides to connect to the spiritual world on the fringes of New Orleans to better understand what happened to her mother a few years prior. Her girlfriend Kate (Isolde Chae-Lawrence) warns her about meddling with forces she can’t understand. As with every other horror genre entry, things begin to get weirder from there, in Jorge Torres-Torres’s debut film.
During one of his usual cruising afternoons, Carlos, a language teacher, happens upon one of his teenage pupils, Toni. What is at first an exhilarating sexual tryst later evolves into something else, something much darker and more dangerous than Carlos had anticipated. Forés’ film explores the limits and dangers of illicit desire in the vein of Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake, a film that also literalized the sex means death dictum that sometimes get thrown at the cruising scene.
During the day, Paulo is a Brazilian flight attendant. But at night, he becomes Gazelle, a fabulous internationally renowned late night personality. Terranova’s exuberant tale of survival and reinvention follows Gazelle as he grapples with the loss of his partner of seven years and his HIV+ status, which may threaten to finally affect the performer’s health.
In 1990, filmmaker Susana Aikin befriended Sara, Gigi, and Giovanna, three Latina trans women who supported their drug addiction by becoming prostitutes. Painting a portrait of their lives and their “home” (the broken garbage trucks next to New York City’s salt deposits), Aikin crafted a powerful and empathetic documentary about gender, sexuality, and friendship.
Five years after The Salt Mines, Aikin and her co-director followed Ricardo (“Sara” in that former film), who, upon hearing she is HIV positive, decides to join a Born Again Christian group. Required to denounce and renounce her queer identity, Sara became Ricardo, married a woman from his church group and even went back to New York to try and recruit his former friends from the street. All is chronicled in The Transformation with touching affection, even as it is tinged with melancholy.