Newfest kicks off tonight at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, commencing 6 days of strong LGBT films from the past year's festival circuit. And we thought we might as well offer up a film a day's worth of recommendation.
52 Tuesdays (directed by Sophie Hyde)
Winner of the best director award at Sundance (for World Cinema), this heartbreaking Australian drama follows sixteen-year-old Billie, whose path to independence is accelerated when her mother reveals plans for to transition to from female to male, and their time together becomes limited to Tuesdays. And this emotionally charged story isn't just set over a year of those Tuesdays, but it was actually filmed over the course of a year—once a week, every week, only on Tuesdays.
The Circle (directed by Stefan Haupt)
The deserved winner of the Teddy Award for best documentary at this year's Berlin International Film Festival, "The Circle" tackles the fascinating story behind one of the first gay liberation communities. The film's title translates to "Der Kreis," the name of a gay magazine and organization founded in the early 1940s Germany that somehow managed to survive the Nazi regime, blossoming in the post-war years into a internationally renowned underground club. It was there when the love story between teacher Ernst Ostertag and drag star Robi Rapp began, which serves as the heart of "The Circle," a truly remarkable documentary.
The Foxy Merkins (directed by Madeleine Olnek)
Madeleine Olnek continues the absurdist tone of 2011 Sundance highlight "Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same" with the "The Foxy Merkins" -- a wacky tale of two lesbian prostitutes (Jackie Monahan and Lisa Haas, who both co-wrote the film with Olnek) who work the streets of New York City. One is a down-on-her-luck newcomer to the scene; the other is a beautiful (and straight) grifter who's got things down. Their adventures are bizarre and offbeat and probably not for everyone, but they sure did work for me: We found "Merkins" to be downright hilarious.
Jamie Marks is Dead (directed by Carter Smith)
Genre gets a queer bent at Outfest thanks to emerging director Carter Smith (who made the incredible short film "Bug Crush") and his "Jamie Marks is Dead." Adapted from Christopher Barzack's young-adult novel "One for Sorrow," it follows teenage Adam (a fantastic Cameron Monaghan), who takes an interest in the death of constantly bullied classmate Jamie Marks (Noah Silver) only to find his ghost emerge in his closet. Which I realize sounds exactly like the hokey "gay ghost movie" billing the film got going into Sundance (where it debuted), but "Jamie Marks Is Dead" goes well beyond that with its poetic, haunting meditation on queer longing and connection without ever going there in the ways you'd expect.
Lilting (directed by Hong Khaou)
Ben Whishaw stars in this devastating film about a young man who, in mourning the death of his boyfriend, decides to try and build a relationship with said boyfriend's Chinese mother (a remarkable Pei-pei Cheng). Except she both doesn't speak English and didn't even (officially, at least) know that her son was gay. Continuing a trend in this year's LGBT films in dealing with ideas of finding human connection and intimacy during moments of hardship,"Lilting" marks the extremely promising debut of UK-based director Hong Khaou, who will definitely leave your heart significantly melted with his first feature film.
The Way He Looks (directed by Daniel Ribeiro)
Brazilian director Daniel Ribeiro's "The Way He Looks" is a thoughtful, optimistic and incredibly heartwarming coming of age drama. Following blind teenager Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) as he falls in love with Gabriel (Fabio Audi), the film is refreshingly more about Leonardo's independence than his sexuality. Which all makes for something very well observed and endlessly sweet, with Ribeiro essentially making it impossible not to root for the boys in his film. Rightfully winning awards left and right (including the Teddy Award at the Berlinale), "The Way He Looks" is definitely a safe bet at Newfest.