This year’s NewFest, New York’s LGBTQ film festival, is setting its sights on Brazil. That is, on top of offering an exhaustive roster of movies from around the globe that celebrate the LGBTQ community which includes projects from Colombia, Guatemala and Argentina, the programming team have set aside an entire block of shorts focused on Brazilian productions. As the country’s history with oppression of LGBTQ+, Afro-Brazilian and low-income communities has found itself newly unearthed under Jai Bolsonaro’s government, NewFest’s “Postcards from Brazil” program hopes to offer a collective of filmmaking voices who celebrate the queer and trans lovers, fighters, and everyday Brazilians working toward lives free from discrimination.
On the feature-length side, Brazil is equally well represented, with stories that touch on the leather community, romantic foibles and student activism. But that’s only to scratch the surface of what’s arguably one of the most diverse slates you’re likely to find. Whether you’re into a documentary about queer women’s representation on U.S. television, a dour drama about gay conversion therapy in Central America, or an LA-set vampire flick, you’ll find NewFest has you covered. Check out all the US Latino and Latin American feature films playing the fest below.
NewFest runs October 23 — 29, 2019.
Segunda estrella a la derecha
In the blink of an eye, gregarious bisexual Emilia (Silvia Varón) has gone from being a core member of a tight-knit group of women to its biggest burden. As her thirties close in on her, Emilia flits from day job to passion project to romantic interest without wholly committing to any. As the group’s focus shifts from friendship to careers, partners, and kids, Emilia becomes yet another load its members must shoulder. In the playful spirit of Frances Ha and Mistress America, prolific writer/director Ruth Caudeli’s Segunda estrella a la derecha dives into the deep end of “becoming a real human” in an age where everyone seems increasingly inauthentic.
Espero tua (re)volta
Lucas “Koka” Penteado, Marcela Jesus, and Nayara Souza were three ordinary high school students whose lives suddenly changed when the state of São Paulo announced plans to close 94 public schools. In response to corruption and inefficiency in their government, the teens started to organize. Beginning with protests in which local students occupied their schools for weeks on end, the student labor movement reached extraordinary heights in 2015 and 2016, bringing awareness to numerous injustices in Brazil and remedying widespread problems for the country’s poorest residents. That was, until 2018, when Jair Bolsonaro was elected with 55% of the popular vote. As the tides shift against activists and social justice movements, Koka, Marcela, and Nayara are faced with a jarring reality. As they put it, their political fight is physical: feminism, LGBTQ issues, sexual freedom — all need to be addressed if they are to move forward. Charting the country’s recent history through casual voiceover narration, gorgeous archival footage, and intimate interviews, Your Turn is a passionate championing of young activists and the future of progressive advocacy, in Brazil and beyond.
Breve encuentro del planeta verde
In director Santiago Loza’s Teddy Award winner, young trans woman Tania (Romina Escobar) is tasked with caring for her recently deceased grandmother’s closest companion — an alien, whom she and her comrades must safely return to its origins. As the group makes the journey on foot through rural Argentina, Tania finds herself supernaturally linked with her extraterrestrial charge, confronting past trauma that manifests as remorseful childhood bullies and as past lovers with new commitments. Each traveler overcomes their fears and heartbreak on this tender, epic journey.
In Guatemala City, the very ground the city is built on is fragile and unreliable for its people. It shakes and destroys at will, often with catastrophic results. Under these circumstances, Guatemalans hold strongly onto their faith; it’s the only stable thing they have ever known. Pablo is no different, a good Catholic man who has visited church all his life and is faithful to his wife Isa and their two beautiful children. But when he meets Francisco, he immediately falls for him, which is a sin in the eyes of his church and his family. As Pablo battles his own internalized homophobia, he has to deal with his surroundings’ disgust at this discovery, too: he loses his job, the right to see his children, and the support of his community. Encouraged by Isa and their Pastor, he starts attending conversion therapy, and soon enough, everything seems to be going back to normal — that is, until the ground starts trembling again.
Queering the Script
Gabrielle Zilkha’s latest film gathers a dynamite roster of fans, creators, and actors for an incisive discussion of the inspiring, yet often troubled, history of queer female representation on television. Galvanized by the upsetting trend of stereotyping, neglecting, or outright killing-off of TV’s beloved queer characters, Zilkha’s subjects beautifully articulate their frustrations and their ideas for better, more accurate, and more inclusive visibility. Queering the Script features interviews with Gloria Calderon Kellett (One Day at a Time), Tanya Saracho (Vida), Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), and more.
Daniel Nolasco’s sexy and modern film interposes live re-enactments of enticing Tom of Finland illustrations — known for their deliciously homoerotic takes on leathermen and men in uniform — with the lives of the five men vying for the title of Mr. Leather Brazil 2018. As we are taken into an introspective view of the leather gear in their closets, these men suit up for the opportunity to share their love for leather and fetish and to educate the queer community of São Paolo about this often underappreciated subculture.
Tu me manques
Starring Argentine actor Oscar Martinez and Spanish actress (and Pedro Almodóvar muse) Rossy de Palma, Tu Me Manques is an emotional exploration of three men’s struggles to reconcile identity and heritage. Following his son Gabriel’s death, Jorge travels from conservative Bolivia to New York City to confront Gabriel’s boyfriend Sebastian. While the two battle over Jorge’s inability to accept his son, Sebastian channels his grief into a bold new play in honor of his lost love, in which Gabriel’s inner turmoil is transformed into an eye-popping gay fantasia. Directed by Rodrigo Bellot, the film in itself is an adaptation of his own stage play, a sensation in his native Bolivia.
Read Remezcla’s review.
Think Los Angeles is soulless? Try surviving the city’s underground feminist vampire scene. In this comedic-horror flick with a flair for the postmodern, Laurel (Supergirl’s Nicole Maines) leaves the suburbs hoping to catch a breather and a couple of good rock shows while crashing with her brother Mark (James Paxton) in the City of Angels. Instead, she quickly finds herself swept up in a quartet of vampires with hazy motives (including Char Diaz’s Frog). Led by a centuries-old, discerning sanguisuge by the name of Duke (Diana Hopper), entry into this clique might be more than Laurel bargained for. As the age-old queer girl adage goes, she must find out whether they want to befriend her, date her, or turn her — before it’s too late.
All We’ve Got
Since 2010, over 100 queer women’s spaces — from dive bars to bookstores and dance halls to health centers — have shuttered across the United States. As concern grows over the death and dearth of these essential social hubs, this documentary takes inventory of those that continue to thrive across the country, inciting a powerful conversation about the importance of community. Whether at Alibi’s Club in Oklahoma City or WOW Café Theatre in New York City, queer women are tirelessly making room for one another on bar stools, stages, and activism’s front lines. Intrepid first-time director Alexis Clements takes us on a far-flung journey through American herstory and resilience, including the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center in San Antonio, which was founded in 1987 by a group made up of mostly Chicana activists and continues working tirelessly to create safe spaces for women.
One Taxi Ride
When Erick was 17 years old, his life changed forever. Ten years after a traumatic taxi ride, he’s ready to reclaim his future and set out on a journey that will shift not only his path, but that of those closest to him. A thoughtful and delicate look at how sexual violence impacts survivors and their relationships and futures, Mak CK’s documentary doesn’t turn Erick’s trauma into a source of spectacle, but, rather, a means of healing and honest introspection. One Taxi Ride is a hopeful and commendable piece of documentary filmmaking, modeling ethical storytelling and the ways in which art and activism can and should cathartically collide.
Queen of Lapa
Against the backdrop of political corruption and flagrant transphobia in Brazil, the late, great Luana Muniz — cabaret performer, activist, and sex worker since age 11 — minced no words about the challenges in calling Lapa, Rio de Janeiro home. In her hostel, she provided a rare safe haven and a heavy dose of tough love for the next generation of trans sex workers. Theodore Collatos and Carolina Monnerat beautifully honor Muniz’s memory, the space she fostered for young trans women, and those following in her uncompromising footsteps. Along with profiling an unsung heroine, this fly-on-the-wall verité documentary humbly listens, sans judgment, to frank discussions of transfemme triumph and tragedy in Lapa’s streets.
Música para morrer de amor
n present-day São Paulo, a trio of young hearts are about to break. Ricardo has both a steady boyfriend and a wandering eye for a new coworker. Isabella is taking a break from both her boyfriend and best friend Ricardo. And hopeless romantic Felipe has suddenly found himself caught between the two of them. These three have big dreams, yearning passion, and opinionated acquaintances, but they’re all unprepared for what’s to come from Cupid’s arrows. From the producer of The Way He Looks and featuring an eclectic record-store-ready soundtrack that samples Brazilian pop, new wave, and classical, Music for Bleeding Hearts is a disarming ensemble rom-com that explores gay, bisexual, and lesbian relationships with depth, humanity, and a symphony of charm.