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Major New York LGBTQ Film Festival, Newfest, Goes Virtual


Film festivals have not been festive this year. The pandemic has forced the annual celebrations of the best in cinema to recreate themselves. NewFest, an LGBTQ film festival, which usually takes place in New York this week, has now gone virtual, which means a broader audience from across the country and more exposure for films about the LGBTQ community. Drew Gregory is a filmmaker and a writer for Autostraddle, and she joins me now to talk about her favorite films. Thanks for being with us.

DREW GREGORY: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So there are over 100 films in this festival. I know this is a big ask, but I have faith in you. Can you pick two? What are your top favorites?

GREGORY: Yes, I can do that for you, even though, yeah, there are a lot of great films, so it is a little tricky. Two standouts for me were "Alice Junior," which is a Brazilian film directed by Gil Baroni. And it's sort of classic teen comedy, but it stars a trans girl, which is something that we don't often see. Another one is "Tahara," which is an American movie directed by Olivia Peace. And it's about, like, a teen lesbian who's in love with her, like, straight best friend, but it takes place after a funeral of a classmate of theirs. And so there's, like, sort of a twist on that approach.

MARTIN: That sounds grim.

GREGORY: It is, and it's also very funny.

MARTIN: OK. I like it. I like a good dark comedy. And I love a good coming-of-age movie.

GREGORY: Yeah. When I was watching it, I was like, oh, is this how people felt when they watched the John Hughes movies, when they watched "Clueless," like, these movies that like I grew up loving, even though, like, I was not out in high school. It's like, oh, this is, like, an alternate world where, like, this is, like, my teen years.

MARTIN: So another film I wanted to ask about is "Forgotten Roads," which is - I mean, if we're talking about teenage coming-of-age movies, this is the opposite end of the spectrum, right? These are women in their golden years. And this is a lesbian love story of that kind of age.

GREGORY: Yeah. This film is really exciting to me because we do occasionally get films about older queer people, but those tend to be fairly maudlin. And this film, even though it does deal with certain serious topics, it's really fun, and it's really weird. There's, like, a thread through the film that UFOs have been appearing in this, like, small Chilean town. And there's just little things like that that just make the movie feel alive in a way that often movies about older queer people don't get to.

MARTIN: There's been controversy this year and many years past about the problem of casting people who do not identify as queer in queer roles. Are you seeing that change?

GREGORY: Yeah. I think that it's really important that trans actors play trans characters. That to me feels like something that's just sort of a must and then having any queer character play, like, a cis queer character, I do think that adds something to the film. I do think it's felt. I also want us to have conversations about who's writing the films and who's directing them and who's on the crew and how much freedom did the executives give them? And when I look at the films that NewFest, it does feel like here is an example of films that are actually doing things that are really interesting. "Tahara" especially is so stylistically interesting and to have, like, a lesbian teen coming-of-age movie that is, like, doing these things that are just really bold cinematically, that's just really exciting to me.

MARTIN: I'm so excited to watch all these films, and I so appreciate you taking the time. Drew Gregory is a writer for Autostraddle. Thank you so much.

GREGORY: Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: The NewFest film festival is available to watch until October 27.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOULAR ORDER'S "KEYFRAMES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.