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Carter Smith’s queer horror Swallowed, starring Jena Malone and Cooper Koch, was awarded the U.S. narrative feature grand jury prize at the 2022 NewFest Festival, which runs through Oct. 25 in New York.
Juliana Curi’s documentary UÝRA — The Rising Forest, Maryam Touzani’s drama The Blue Caftan and Nyala Moon’s short How to Not Date While Trans were also awarded jury prizes in the documentary feature, international feature and New York short categories of the annual LGBTQ+ film festival’s 34th edition.
Writer-director Elegance Bratton was also honored on Oct. 20 with the inaugural Breakthrough Queer Visionary Award for his film The Inspection, about a gay Black man who joins the Marines. The film, which stars Jeremy Pope, Gabrielle Union and Raúl Castillo, debuted at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival and is set to open in U.S. theaters on Nov. 18.
“Queer cinema is thriving, transcendent and stronger than ever, as the recipients of our juried awards demonstrate,” NewFest Executive Director David Hatkoff and Director of Programming Nick McCarthy said in a joint statement. “These varied films showcase our expansive community’s stories as well as the highest caliber of cinema. We’re particularly excited that select recipients come from genres too often under-celebrated for their craft such as comedy and horror.”
Sundance programmer Ash Hoyle, Vanity Fair journalist Chris Murphy and the French Institute Alliance Francaise’s Maureen Masters comprised the U.S. narrative jury that selected Swallowed for its “transgressive boldness, conceptual and tonal uniqueness and complex, layered approach to queer storytelling, characters and aesthetic.”
The documentary features jury included the International Documentary Association’s Kristal Sotomayor, book editor and journalist Jackson Howard and filmmaker-editor Niq Lewis, all of whom lauded Curi’s “meditative and experimental filmmaking,” after dubbing UÝRA an “intricate weaving of environmental activism, indigeneity, performance art, queerness and transness.”
Journalist Monica Castillo, Columbia University professor Mayukh Sen and Criterion guest curator and critic Caden Mark Gardner served as the jury for international narrative features. They celebrated Touzani’s Morocco-set The Blue Caftan as an “elegant queer film” that “exudes the best qualities of classic and old-fashioned narrative storytelling with grace, restraint and quiet confidence.”
This year’s New York shorts jury was made up of filmmaker Jane Schoenborn, PBS’ POV producer Robert Chang and artist, activist and talk show host Junior Mintt. The trio selected Moon’s How to Not Date While Trans for its “compelling and honest narrative” that masterfully blends “conventional and experimental forms to examine a person navigating not only the expectations and prejudice of others but also the effect it has on one’s own self-image and value.”
Special mentions went to the ensemble cast of Unidentified Objects in the U.S. narrative fiction category; writer-director Rodrigo de Oliveira’s The First Fallen in the international narrative features category; Micheal Rice’s Black As U R in the documentary features category; and director Jude Dry’s Monsieur Le Butch in the New York shorts category.
NewFest also handed out a number of other honors as part of this year’s festival. That includes the Chevrolet Changemaker Award for a Black LGBTQ+ director, which went to Black As U R‘s Rice and the NewFext x NYWIFT Emerging Filmmaker Award, which was given to Dress Up‘s Karina Dandashi. The Spirit God Gave Us director Michael Donte Jemison, Build or Destroy director Rashaad Newsome and Egungun (Masquerade) director Olive Nwosu were all honored with the Blackstone Emerging Black LGBTQ+ Filmmaker Award, presented as part of the festival’s Black Filmmakers Initiative.
NewFest’s 34th edition, which kicked off on Oct. 13 with both local in-person and on-demand screenings, premiered 130 new films and series, including 22 narrative features, 15 documentary features, four retrospective features, eight episodic series and 11 shorts program screenings.
The 2022 audience awards, including best documentary, best narrative feature, best documentary short and best narrative short, will be announced following the festival’s close on Oct. 25.
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